Why I Teach: Paraeducator to Interagency Coordination Specialist

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.”

Dana Page, Ph.D.

By: Dana Page, Ph.D.

I began my career in special education in 2006 as a long-term paraeducator. I was hired full time the following school year and worked as a paraeducator for many years before becoming a certified teacher. I taught students with emotional/behavioral disorders and loved it!

I also noticed how there weren’t many teachers who looked like me in the school building let alone the district. I wanted that to change as well as the disparities within special education related to the intersectionality of disability and race/ethnicity. This prompted me to pursue my doctoral degree at the University of Louisville where I received an OSEP Leadership Grant.

Without funding from the OSEP Leadership Grant, I wouldn’t have been able to pursue my doctoral studies. A lack of funding is often a factor when trying to address the issue of teacher workforce diversity. This funding allowed me the opportunity to explore my main research interests and scholarly activities that are rooted in using anti-racist, culturally relevant and sustaining practices to address the academic, behavior, and disciplinary disparities of marginalized students receiving special education services.

Now, I get to apply my research and knowledge in new ways to help teachers in the field provide quality instruction and experiences for their students, and I get to show people who look like me that they can do it too.

Education has always and will continue to be an effective tool for social change, and we need to be the change we want to see. Representation really does matter.

I wholeheartedly believe that if we (educators) are going to talk-the-talk about providing diverse, inclusive, and equitable classrooms and safe spaces to learn and engage then that means we must walk-the-walk. There needs to be action behind those words!

Dana Page, Ph.D., is an interagency coordination specialist for the Minnesota Department of Education. Page started in the classroom as a paraeductor before becoming a certified teacher. Page was an OSEP Scholar under the OSEP Grant for the Preparation of Special Education, Early Intervention and Related Services Leadership Personnel (84.325D). She graduates with her Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Louisville in this month.

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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