Severe Autism Program and Integrated Learning Supports (ILS)
I am asked from time to time why I teach. This is a very intriguing question and requires a fair amount of explanation. Here is my "why". I was born and raised in Omaha, Nebraska and grew up with six brothers. My dad was a teacher and my mom was a homemaker. To be quite honest, I was an average student in elementary and high school. I enjoyed school, loved playing sports, and appreciated the social aspect of going to school. After high school, I attended the University of Nebraska at Omaha. It was there when I developed a desire to teach and discovered the reason I was an average student. In college, I figured out how I learn best and was able to modify class readings and notes into something that made sense. In short, I figured out my learning style and started to thrive for the first time. I graduated with a degree in Secondary Education with an emphasis in Social Sciences.
In 1997, I moved to Fort Collins. I decided to pursue other work avenues, which lead to owning several small businesses. My wife and I enjoyed Colorado and our family grew. By 2006, we were proud parents to five boys and awaiting the birth of our sixth child when things changed. Our daughter was born in June and had many health complications as well as Down syndrome. This has been the one of the many blessings of my life.
As my boys progressed through school and my daughter's health improved, I started volunteering at my children's school and it rekindled my desire to teach. This desire was solidified during a meeting prior to my daughter attending pre-school at age three. I found out people who work in the special education field have their own language and generally like to speak in acronyms. I walked out of the meeting frustrated and wanting to find a way to properly channel this frustration. It was then my "why" was complete. I wanted to become a special education teacher to help some of the most vulnerable children in school and to be a resource for parents. I never wanted another parent to walk out of a meeting frustrated because they did not understand the language special educators use or know the acronyms. I decided to enroll in classes to become a special education teacher (now called Integrated Services by Poudre School District).
I enrolled in classes through the University of Phoenix because the online format was very convenient as I took care of my daughter, helped raise the boys, and welcomed another boy to our family. While some people have a dim view of my university, I can firmly say my education was top notch. After a few years of classes, I received my Master of Science in Special Education.
Luckily, I was hired to teach at Fort Collins High School. I originally taught students who are severely Autistic, but the program has expanded and now encompasses students severely impacted with a wide range of disabilities. I love going to work everyday and refuse to use acronyms in the presence of a parent without first explaining the meaning. In addition to school, my wife Katha and I are proud parents of seven children who have all been or are currently educated through Poudre School District.
Initially my "why" was family based and wanting to be a parent advocate, it has evolved a bit. My "why" still involves family and advocacy, it also includes educating others on the basic premise of all people are capable of learning. I firmly believe students severely impacted by a disability demonstrate genius levels of understanding in many areas, but we are unable to recognize these gifts.
We as teachers need to meet students at their level and understand everyone learns differently. We need to determine our students learning style if we want them to have school success. Although it is not easy to teach a group of students who have a variety of learning styles, it can be done. We also need to strive to bring out the genius in our students each day.
I teach because of student success, I teach in order to help parents, and I teach because I learn from my students each day.