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The Teachers In My Life Made Me Who I Am Today And Why I Chose Special Education (Who Did You Become?)

Updated on May 10, 2012

Why Special Education?


Why I Became a Special Education Teacher

©LaDena Campbell 2012 aka justateacher

People ask me all the time “Why did you get into special education?” My simple, quick, smart-aleck reason is always “‘Cuz I’m special!” The real reason is much more than that.

I have always wanted to teach. When my older sister began school, she would come home and
“teach” me all that she had learned. We played school every day, and she was almost always the teacher. I wanted to be the teacher. When my little sister was born, I was able to be a teacher for the first time, and I loved it!

When I began first grade, I loved my teacher. Her name was Mrs. Sealy and in my young eyes, she was at least a hundred years old. She was probably closer to sixty, but to me she was just old. And she was the coolest lady ever! She taught me to love reading. She taught me that when I picked up a book, I could go anywhere! She read Amelia Bedilia and Pippi Longstocking and I fell in love with the written word! She let me read in front of the class sometimes – encouraged me to come out of my shell and read to the others – and I loved it!

My family moved a lot when I was growing up. I think I counted at least thirty two different schools from first grade through twelfth grade. Only three times in my school career did I stay at one school for longer than one year – first and second grade, once for fifth, sixth and part of seventh grade and my high school years. In my high school years, I moved at least four times. I was always the “new kid.” I was small and never had the “right” clothes, so I was always picked on. I was such an easy target because I never fought back and I never told. Even some of the adults in my schools would pick on me. In fifth grade, Mr. Wasinger made sure that no one picked on me. When a lunch aide was sending me to the office for “backtalking” he stepped in to save me from a swat from the principal. He told everyone that I was a good student and wouldn’t even talk and that there was no way that I could be backtalking. He also taught me the wonderful world of poetry and let me shine by showcasing my poems in our class library. He encouraged me to help others by showing them how I wrote my poems. He encouraged me to teach them – and I loved it!

When I was thirteen or fourteen, my little sister and I practically lived at the skating rink next to our trailer park. We were there every day – sometimes two or three times a day. It was a great way to have fun and it was cheap. One evening there was a special skate – I don’t remember what the occasion was. In the group there was a girl that had cerebral palsy – she was in a wheelchair. She wanted to skate really bad, but the officials at the skate rink wouldn’t let her. I finally had enough. I went to get her a pair of skates and with the help of my sister, lifted her up and held her as we skated around the rink. We did this for several hours. Even though the little girl had difficulty talking, we knew that she appreciated our efforts. I had stood up for someone with special needs – and I loved it!

I was seventeen when I got pregnant for the first time. I married my daughter’s father and finished high school, but I never thought I would be able to fulfill my dream of becoming a teacher. My then husband made sure to tell me many times a day that I would not make a good teacher and that I just needed to stay at home at take care of him like a “good wife.” It was only out of desperation years later that I went back to school to get my teaching degree. He refused to work and I wanted a better life for my two girls.

I graduated from college with a teaching degree and went to work in a special needs preschool. I was just the teacher’s aide, but was given much of the responsibility of teaching the children. We had children with physical, mental and behavioral disorders. I was challenged with diversifying the lessons to fit all of the students. I taught children with special needs – and I loved it!

The next year, I applied at the school district. The first principal I talked to told me that the second grade position I was interviewing for was already taken. She asked me if I had ever thought of teaching special education. I told her that I wanted to do that eventually – when I had the money to go back to school. She asked me if I would do it if the school district would pay for it. Of course, I said yes. I taught my first year of special education with absolutely no training – but I loved it!

Since that first year, I have taught every grade from kindergarten through fifth grade. I have taught children with learning disabilities, mental retardation, physical impairments, and behavioral disorders and everything in between. I have taught at only one school, but with many different teachers and principals. I have taught special education for fifteen years – and I still love it!

For all of these reasons and more – I love teaching special education!


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    • Dancing Water profile image

      Dancing Water 5 years ago

      What a beautiful hub! You clearly have been called to teach, and I just know that you are a magnificent teacher: a true gift for the children you teach. And my goodness, you have gone through so much to achieve your desire to be a teacher. The world needs more dedicated, strong, loving people like you, justateacher!

    • Trish_M profile image

      Tricia Mason 5 years ago from The English Midlands

      Hi Justateacher!

      Very inspiring!

      I am a qualified teacher, but have mostly taught in adult ed.

      However, I have also worked in schools (sometimes paid; sometimes voluntary) including special needs. It is, indeed, very rewarding.

      I have not worked in a special needs school, where, I think, those needs may be extra special. My sister-in-law does, however, work in such an environment and is now a deputy head. I very much admire what she does.

      And I think that to work successfully and happily in special needs education, really does make one special.

      Oh, and yes, I agree that some teachers have a very long-lasting effect on our lives. Hopefully this is usually for good :)

    • justateacher profile image

      LaDena Campbell 5 years ago from Somewhere Over The Rainbow - Near Oz...

      pstraubie48 - thank you for your comments! It seems that all teachers I know had some special teacher in their lives that prompted them to go into the profession...

    • pstraubie48 profile image

      Patricia Scott 5 years ago from sunny Florida

      thank you so much for sharing this....I retired from 40 years of teaching in the fall of 2011. It was not a was a calling. I got up every day anxious to get to school so that the day with my children would begin. I am so glad to see you share your feelings here. Our profession needs those who LOVE this calling to be there.

      There are several teachers who really made a difference in my life. One of them was my Journalism teacher my senior year of high school. About 10 years ago when I visited the town where I graduated, Boyertown, Pennsylvania, I called him and told him how much he had impacted my life. He made me believe in my ability and encouraged me to continue to write.

      I have only just begun...thank you for making a difference.

    • justateacher profile image

      LaDena Campbell 5 years ago from Somewhere Over The Rainbow - Near Oz...

      To all who commented -thank you so much for reading and leaving your wonderful comments!

    • justateacher profile image

      LaDena Campbell 5 years ago from Somewhere Over The Rainbow - Near Oz...

      Thank you Frank!

    • Frank Atanacio profile image

      Frank Atanacio 5 years ago from Shelton

      I simply respect and admire people like you... God bless you

    • The Frog Prince profile image

      The Frog Prince 5 years ago from Arlington, TX

      teach - I admire you for what you do even though I never rode the short bus to school. Great perspective.

      The Frog

    • hush4444 profile image

      hush4444 5 years ago from Hawaii

      This is such a beautiful hub. It's amazing what a profound effect a good teacher can have on a child, and I'm sure you have that effect on your students too. Thank you so much for sharing your story.

    • Steve LePoidevin profile image

      Steve LePoidevin 5 years ago from Thailand

      Still wake up and love to get to my classes. I have taught in Canada, Scotland and now, China. Over my career I have had Grades 8-12 Science and Math, Adult Ed. and all the "bad boys and girls", lol, in Alternate Ed.(kids who either weren't allowed in the high-school to begin with or were kicked out for good.) Started teaching when I was 22 but took a ten year hiatus to go back to art school and then work as a professional ceramic artist. I always get pulled back to teaching! i realized this week that I have put in almost 30 years in the classroom over my lifetime! Time to stop but I am still having too much fun!

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 5 years ago

      God bless all those wonderful teachers who took the time to reach out to you. You certainly have had your share of trials but it proves that they made you a better person. Your students are very fortunate to have someone like you.

    • Born2care2001 profile image

      Rev Bruce S Noll HMN 5 years ago from Asheville NC

      The greatest job in the world is the one you love to wake up to every day! When I see or read about a teacher who loves their work, I am so grateful because whoever they are teaching is getting love vicariously through a very special individual!

      Thanks for all you do!