LIVE@CoSN2024: Exclusive Coverage

A military veteran and special education teacher shares his experiences in creating an inclusive and supportive classroom for students.

How I foster an inclusive classroom as a new teacher


A military veteran who was drawn to teaching shares his experiences as a Black male educator and role model for children

Key points:

As a teacher at High Road School of Delaware, an individualized special education program aimed at strengthening each student’s academic, social and emotional abilities, job skills, and self-esteem, I serve a community of young people who share a rich spectrum of experiences. Becoming a special ed teacher was not the career I had pictured for myself – but now I can’t imagine doing anything else.

After serving in the Air Force with stints in Italy, Guam, and the UK, I found my purpose back in the States, working with children and adolescents with special needs. It all began when my mother’s friend, who operated a group home, offered me a job. While working in this position, I found myself drawn to the complexities and rewards that come with serving populations with the greatest needs.

That experience led to the High Road School of Delaware, where I began teaching during the 2022-2023 school year. Every day since, I’ve learned something new about patience, team dynamics, and preempting behavioral triggers.

My military background taught me independence and how to work collaboratively. I’ve learned to ask for help–a crucial aspect of creating a supportive environment for our students. At my school, we strive to foster a setting where students feel comfortable being themselves, without fear or embarrassment.

I empathize with being misunderstood and bullied–experiences that shaped my own school years. Overcoming adversity became a personal strength. Enduring bullying taught me resilience and self-worth. It’s important to me to create a nurturing, inclusive space where all students feel seen and valued. Empowering them to overcome barriers is my mission. Together, we shape their future success.

My role as a Black male figure is also critical, especially to the young students who come from challenging backgrounds. They need to see a mirror of themselves that radiates positivity, perseverance and respect. We engage in conversations that challenge their worldviews, opening avenues to express their feelings in healthier ways.

Every day I’m reminded that my reactions set a tone. I live by example. I teach the kids that we can break stereotypes, overcome expectations, and be the person we wish to be.

Why do I teach? Because I love seeing people succeed. As a father to two little girls, I understand that the act of teaching never really stops. It’s in the way we guide them in everyday tasks or how we encourage them to reach for their goals. This job lets me do what I love every single day – nurturing growth, encouraging learning, and celebrating the small wins, like reaching an IEP goal.

My advice to new teachers? It is not just about the academics, but understanding the unique struggles of each student and being there to guide them through it all. It’s a journey, and I am grateful to be a part of it.

Related:
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3 supports for educators implementing restorative justice practices

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