Why I Teach: Helping Students Transition from High School to Their Futures

National Teacher Appreciation Week, May 8–12, 2023

This Teacher Appreciation Week, a few Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) Scholars who completed their degree programs with support from a Personnel Development to Improve Services for Children with Disabilities (ALN 84.325) discretionary grant administered by the Office of Special Education Programs shared “Why I Teach.”

Joanna Alvarez

By: Joanna Alvarez

I teach because my commitment to students in special education is my purpose of being a lifelong learner.

When my little brother was diagnosed with a disability six years ago, I was committed to learning how to support him in navigating his academic journey. I share the same commitment with my students in the classroom today.

As a middle school special education teacher and doctoral candidate, I want to provide a space for students to feel safe and have the self-determination skills to be the drivers of their life.

The Department of Education’s Office of Special Education’s 325K program grant I received while doing my credential program gave me the practical skills to support students transitioning from high school to living independent lives, obtaining employment, and enrolling in a post-secondary school. My interest in transition caused transition to be topic of my dissertation.

Being a recipient of the grant taught me the value of individuals with disabilities needing self-determination skills to navigate life after high school. As my students’ teacher, I can contribute to guiding them to apply their self-determination skills in planning for after high school and beyond.

In the future, I would like to collaboratively help shape a vision of academic success for the inclusion of all students as a special education director for the district. Furthermore, I would like to collaborate with school personnel to improve and cultivate leadership in others.

My ultimate goal as an educator is to create sustainable schools where teachers and staff collaborate to develop curricula, share best instructional practices, problem-solve, and revisit teaching pedagogy.

Joanna Alvarez currently teaches grades 6,7, and 8 for students in the mild-moderate special education setting in the areas of math and science. She graduated from California State University, Long Beach with an Education Specialist Credential in 2019. Alvarez was an OSEP Scholar at CSULB from 2015–2017 for an interdisciplinary project to promote culturally responsive transition for students in special education. The grant addressed Preparation of Early Intervention and Special Education Personnel Serving Children with Disabilities Who Have High-Intensity Needs (84.325K).

About OSEP Scholars and Personnel Development Program Grants

The U.S. Department of Education funds discretionary grants used for professional development to improve services results for children with disabilities. Individuals interested in finding a Personnel Development Program that meets their needs can visit the OSEP IDEAs That Work’s Discretionary Grants Database, select the “Program” filter “Personnel Development” and then use additional search options such as “State,” “Disability,” “Age of Children,” or “Type of Competition.”

Organizations interested in open grant competitions for Personnel Development to Improve Services and Results for Children with Disabilities (84.325) can learn more on the Applicant Information page.

Blog articles provide insights on the activities of schools, programs, grantees, and other education stakeholders to promote continuing discussion of educational innovation and reform. Articles do not endorse any educational product, service, curriculum or pedagogy.

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