National Special Education Day 2021 | IDEA Public Schools

Celebrating National Special Education Day 2021: IDEA Teachers Share Their Passion for Student Success

National Special Education Day is celebrated every year on December 2! This day commemorates the anniversary of our nation’s first federal special education law, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, signed by President Ford on December 2, 1975.   

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act made public education available to all eligible children with disabilities across the nation and ensured special education and related services were provided for those children. This law was a critical and necessary step on the path to making education and resources equitable for all children – a goal we are still working toward today. This day honors the milestones that have been achieved for special education so far and reminds us of the continued progress to come.  

To celebrate this important day, we spoke with four special education teachers about the importance of their role at IDEA, why they love what they do, and the impact they create for students every day. 

 

Mariana Pena, Special Education RISE Teacher at IDEA Converse Academy in San Antonio 

Mariana Pena, Special Education RISE Teacher at IDEA Converse Academy | National Special Education Day 

Why did you choose a career in special education? 

I am incredibly fortunate to have a career in special education; not only do I get to teach exceptional minds, but I get to create lifelong bonds with students and their parents. I teach my students not just academics but social-emotional and life skills. Every day, I strive to instill a well-rounded education in each of my students because they deserve it and should not be underestimated. 

What do you love most about your job in special education? 

I love special education because I will have the same group of students throughout their Academy years, and I have the creative freedom to differentiate instruction to fit the diverse needs of my students. I am the founding Special Education RISE teacher for IDEA Converse. It was one of my most significant accomplishments and one of my proudest moments when my students transferred to my campus! Within a month of being in my classroom, students made tremendous growth academically, socially, emotionally, and behaviorally. I hope to continue making a difference, but my students make the most significant impact in my life at the end of the day.

Special education students at IDEA Converse Academy take a stretch in between lessons | National Special Education Day | IDEA Public Schools

Special education students at IDEA Converse Academy take a stretch in between lessons 

 

Kareema Mays-Taylor, Special Education Teacher at IDEA Victory Academy in Tampa Bay 

Kareema Mays-Taylor, Special Education Teacher at IDEA Victory Academy | National Special Education Day

How has your personal background influenced your career today? 

Being a special education teacher has been so rewarding! My passion to learn more about students, who require academic differentiation, started with wanting to understand how my younger sister learns. My younger sister is intellectually disabled – meaning she has an IQ of 69 or lower. Growing up, my family and I provided accommodations for her when she learned any new skill. When I completed my undergraduate degree, I chose to pursue my master’s degree in elementary special education. I enjoy teaching my students by utilizing innovative ways to keep them engaged, as I meet them where they are academically. I love their smiles when they master an IEP goal or a new strategy. I’m so thankful to interact with a diverse population of learners. All of them are unique but bring so much joy to me each day! 

 

Anthony Sanchez, M.Ed., Special Education Teacher at IDEA Southeast Academy in Tarrant County 

Anthony Sanchez, M.Ed., Special Education Teacher at IDEA Southeast Academy | National Special Education Day

Tell us about a student success story. What gets you up in the morning to do this great work? 

The most exciting thing I am proud of is placing some of my students in general education classrooms part-time that come from a RISE setting. Also, after three years, one of my most challenging students is one of the top students in his class grade level. I keep in contact with my previous students’ families and hear about their accomplishments. I have had the privilege of teaching many outstanding students! 

What does being a special education teacher mean to you?  

Compared to other teaching positions, being in special education means having one of the most challenging but most rewarding students to be centered around. You, as the special education teacher, can challenge students with their appropriate accommodations and see them grow in their areas of need. All students want to learn, so it is necessary to understand how important it is to help students in special education grow. I want to be the voice for my students, and I would ensure that every student had an equal opportunity at a quality education.

Special education student at IDEA Southeast Academy engages in a writing lesson | National Special Education Day | IDEA Public Schools

Special education student at IDEA Southeast Academy engages in a writing lesson 

 

Vivian Gaona, Special Education RISE Co-Teacher at IDEA Edinburg Academy in the Rio Grande Valley 

Vivian Gaona, Special Education RISE Co-Teacher at IDEA Edinburg Academy | National Special Education Day

What do you love most about your job in special education? 

There is so much to love in the special education department, but what I love most is being able to witness the growth and progress in every student. Although our students may comprehend differently from others, it just makes it more rewarding to see the skills they learned in the classroom being utilized in everyday life.  

Why did you choose a career in special education? 

The reason why I chose special education is because this field brings warmth to my heart knowing that my career choice really makes a difference in the lives of students and their families. It also allows you to see the progress in every student. Witnessing the joy on a student’s face as they learn new things in the classroom is the ultimate reward. I am truly honored to be a part of all my students’ lives and accomplishments. 

Vivian Gaona and student share a high five after completing a lesson | National Special Education Day | IDEA Public Schools

Vivian Gaona and student share a high five after completing a lesson 

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