Though their work often goes unnoticed, the incredible teachers and unique staff of the special education department at MC work hard to ensure the students are getting the help they need.
The teachers on the special ed team all got their start in different ways.
“I saw an ad in a newsletter that came home from when my kids went here, and it said they needed help in the ed department,” instructional assistant Anne Rentz said.
Matthew Pope, who teaches students with learning handicaps, took a less direct route.
“I was a chef first but I got hurt and I had a history degree so I started subbing,” Pope said. “I started substituting in special ed classrooms and I found that I was really good at it.”
Their job descriptions vary, but one thing they have in common is giving students the extra academic help they may need to reach their full potential.
“I teach students English and history, help them to learn how to become learners, and work with students who might have trouble with social anxiety or depression or other things that prevent them from being as successful as they can be,” Pope said.
Naturally, their jobs come with i difficulties.
“Challenges involve staying on top of all the kids’ situations that they have happen in their life that might affect [them] when they come to school that day,” Rentz said.
Other trials include trying to understand the students and optimize learning for their specifications.
“There are definitely challenges, [it’s difficult to] try to figure out how a kid learns and get them to think about things differently and get a new perspective on things,” Jeffrey Turbitt, who teaches students with mental disorders, said.
As demanding as the job may be at times, it is also rewarding.
“It’s really cool to see the progress in each student and helping them gain skills necessary to become independent and do things for themselves,” Sara Small, the critical skills teacher, said. “Sometimes we kind of take for granted all the things that we can do on our own, and being able to help students gain the skills to do that is pretty cool.”
They might be the teachers, but that doesn’t mean the staff doesn’t ever learn anything from their students.
“Something I have learned from the kids is that you’ve got to start every day new, and that you can’t hold on to things,” Pope said. “That will make your relationships much better if you’re able to move on and let go.”
Small also shared valuable knowledge gained from her students.
“Something the kids have taught me is to just look at all the little things and be grateful for what we have because they’re just so wonderful,” Small said. “They make me smile and laugh no matter what they say or do.”
Given the nature of the job and the variety of students, there are a number of unique experiences and memories.
“One of my favorite moments was losing a bet to a student who said that she couldn’t get a B in her biology class and keep perfect attendance, which means that I have to dye my beard green,” Turbitt said. “It was a great moment to lose that bet.”
If MC students are interested in following in footsteps of the special education teachers, they have offered up some words of wisdom.
“Become an academic tutor in my classroom, get involved with friendship club, get to know our students, because it’s such a rewarding career path,” Small said. “It’s something that you can do for the rest of your life, and you can get a sample of it right here in high school.”