Meet Heather McKendrick, a current senior in the special education program emphasizing in severe disabilities. Heather is excited to become a special educator after she graduates this year and will be continuing her own education with the pursuit of a Master's degree in Autism Spectrum Disorders! Heather loves studying special education because she says "it opens up a whole new world of teaching. I get to learn about unique ways to teach math, social skills, writing, reading, and so much more. It lets me see that there is always more than one way to approach everything!"
"There is always more than one way to approach everything!"
When asked about the value of special educators, she replied, "for me, the value comes in being able to connect with a population that isn't often connected with. Anytime I break down a students wall or help a student meet a goal, or teach a student how to read their favorite book, I get reassured that this is the right path for me."
Although there is incredible value in becoming a special educator, the profession unfortunately has its share of stereotypes. Heather explains that "I often get asked if I'm going this route because I couldn't handle teaching 'regular ed' students, or if I wanted to pursue an easy career. Which, okay, OUCH! No!" Heather explains that "I choose to teach Special Ed because I WANT to teach students with disabilities. Not only do I enjoy the work, but it also challenges me and makes me think on my toes!"
As a future educator, Heather hopes to be an example of continuing education for her students. She explains that throughout her early school years she often struggled. "For a while," Heather admits, "the idea of college wasn't my favorite. However as time went on, I did decide to go and get a degree and it has been a life changer. I want my future students to see that it can be worth it! There is so much good that comes from continuing their education in some way or another."
"I’ve always hoped to be an example of continuing education for students with disabilities."
Throughout her years here in the program, Heather explains that her favorite part of the McKay School is the community that her program has built together. Being a smaller program, many of the students are in all the same classes together, and as such, get to spend lots of time with each other. But on top of that, she explains, "everyone comes to class with something different to offer. We learn first from our professors, but then from each other. When someone is confused about a topic, another student will jump in and explain the topic to them in a different way. I love all the girls and guys that I get the opportunity to learn with!" The sense of community helped her to feel "a comfort in knowing that we're not alone and there is always someone to help."
"I feel comfort in knowing that we're not alone and there is always someone to help."
To future students entering the Special Education program, Heather recommends that new students read all the articles, journals, and other reading assignments that your professors assign. "They may be long," she says, "but they are filled with some amazing information that you WILL use in your own classroom one day!"