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My CT and I made this tree in her classroom out of chart paper. The sign says: "You're off to great places, today is your day, your mountain is waiting, so get on your way!" -Dr. Seuss

As I mentioned in my philosophy of teaching, content knowledge is hugely important because as a teacher, I cannot teach what I do not know. Through my liberal arts education at The College of William and Mary and my graduate course work, I feel thoroughly prepared to teach my students anything that they should need to learn. In addition, my student teaching experiences have provided me with hands-on experience teaching the core subjects. Furthermore, I feel that my graduate classes at William and Mary have provided me with a large number of resources, so that if I do not know how to teach something, I know where to look to find the information.
I am particularly confident in my abilities to teach math and reading, since I took classes on their pedagogy. This portfolio I made illustrates my knowledge of teaching mathematics in a way that encourages thinking and problem solving rather than rote memorization. Additionally, this Reading Case Study illustrates my abilities to assess, progress monitor, plan, and teach reading based on a student’s individual needs.

CEC Standard #1: Foundations
The field of special education has changed drastically over the past few decades. In my graduate classes, especially in Current Trends and Legal Issues in Special Education, I have learned about the history of special education and how it came to be the way it is now. I am intimately familiar with IDEA, ADA, NCLB, and other laws that govern special education, as well as the special education eligibility process. This essay explains the Special Education Eligibility Process process to a parent or someone who has limited knowledge of the system. It is important for me to be able to explain things such as the Eligibility Process to parents in a clear, concise, jargon-free way.

One of the most important parts of special education legislation, in my opinion, is the shift to person-centered planning and person-first language. For example, IDEA 1990 changed the name of the law from “Education of All Handicapped Children Act” to the “Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.” Although both titles contain essentially the same words, IDEA changes the focus to the individual, rather than the education. The shift towards person-first language emphasizes that everyone is primarily a person, with rights and dignity, just like everyone else. They may have a disability, but they are not defined by their disability. It is especially important to remember this when identifying children with special education labels. While labels are necessary to receive services, supports, etc., a child cannot be defined by his or her label. Moreover, one label cannot adequately describe any single child. Every single student is different (even if they have they have the same disability as another student.) In the words of Professor Selena Joy, “If you’ve met one student with autism, you’ve met one student with autism.”

CEC Standard #2: Development and Characteristics of Learners
Every student is an individual, who grows, develops and learns at his or her own pace. My undergraduate background in psychology, specifically my classes in Developmental Psychology, Cognitive Psychology, and Educational Psychology, has equipped me with knowledge of how children grow, develop, and learn, that can be directly applied to my teaching. Every learner is different: in addition to disabilities and developmental differences, each learner comes from a different culture and a different family, which can have a huge impact on their learning!

We as teachers see a child for 8 hours a day for a year, but families spend 24 hours a day with their children for most of their lifetimes. It is important to involve families in the special education process, and learn about them, their struggles, etc. Some families are multiply stressed and may seem not to care about their child’s education. It is my job as a teacher to reach out to them (sometimes in many different ways) and help them become involved! I had the opportunity to interview a parent of a student with a learning disability and get a glimpse into her life, including her fears, hopes, and dreams for her son. This interview and my reflection illustrate the diverse concerns that parents have, and the need for special educators to take familial, cultural, socioeconomic, and other factors into consideration when working with students!

CEC Standard #3: Individual Learning Differences
As I have discussed, students receiving special education services have distinct learning needs and styles. It is important to remember that there is no “one size fits all” approach to education- individual learning needs must be considered! Each student receiving services will have an Individualized Education Program (as mandated by federal law), which is a legal document determining annual goals, services, accommodations, and other considerations for the student. Our goal in special education is to provide accommodations, modifications and supports so that each student can access the curriculum. My classmates and I created a Resource Notebook which defines several common disabilities and provides quick, easy accommodations that a teacher could use to help students in the classroom.