“Why I Teach” — Shirin Felfelti & Margaret Brewer-LaPorta

Teachers Change Lives at:

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Shirin Felfelti

Shirin Felfelti

Shirin Felfelti

I became a special education teacher because working with students with special needs brings me so much joy. In high school I took an exploratory class called “Peer Facilitation.” I was not exactly sure what to expect, but I signed up. It turned out to be a blessing and the highlight of my high school years. In the class I spent an hour each day helping and participating with the special education class in P.E. I formed such amazing bonds with each of the students and I felt such joy being with them amid all the pressures of high school. That was when a seed was planted.

Once I got to college the idea of being a special education teacher came to fruition. Though as a beginning teacher I get anxious and unsure, the joy and pure love I receive from working with the students supersedes all insecurities I face.

Shirin Felfelti
Resource Teacher
Mathews Elementary School, Midland, Georgia


Margaret Brewer-LaPorta

Margaret Brewer-LaPorta

Margaret Brewer-LaPorta

Raised in poverty by an immigrant family, statistics claim that I should never have graduated from high school, let alone moved on to earn bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in the geological sciences. After teaching at the college level for years, I became a student again, this time to earn a second masters in Inclusive Adolescent Education. All of my teachers opened the world to me. They taught me to believe in myself, and showed me how to fly higher than I ever dreamed possible.

Now I teach Earth Science at Monroe-Woodbury High School to students with disabilities. My students are bright and innovative. Yet due to their struggles with learning, they often lack faith in their own abilities. To pass on the gifts given to me, I teach to lift souls, to help my students find their wings, and to show them how to reach beyond their dreams.

Margaret Brewer-LaPorta, M.S., M.S.T., Ph.D.
Special Education Earth Science

Monroe-Woodbury High School, Central Valley, N.Y.

Pace University graduate. The program received an OSEP-funded grant:
84.325T: Special Education Preservice Program Improvement Grants


Shirin Felfelti
Posted by
Resource Teacher Mathews Elementary School, Midland, Ga.
Margaret Brewer LaPorta
Posted by
Special Education Earth Science Monroe-Woodbury High School, Central Valley, N.Y.

“Why I Teach” — White, Gaasbeek & Iobst

Teachers Change Lives at:

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Kristin White

Kristin White

Kristin White

I grew up in a small town that lacked a strong educational system. Due to our size and lack of funding, not much was offered in the way of extracurricular activities and programs. However, some of our teachers were nothing short of exceptional. I was fortunate enough to have one of those teachers during my elementary years. Because of her commitment and dedication to education, I grew tremendously as an individual.

After I graduated with my bachelor’s degree in elementary education and master’s degree in special education, I moved back to that same small town to teach at the same elementary school that I attended. Being in this school, I’ve had the opportunity to mentor students and provide the stability and love that many of them do not experience at home.

More than anything, I want my students to know that I care. That’s why I teach.

Kristin White
James A. Long Elementary School
Palatka, FL


Seth Van Gaasbeek

Seth Van Gaasbeek

Seth Van Gaasbeek

Education was not always my field of study. I received a Bachelor’s degree in psychology and was enrolled in a Master’s program for school psychology. It was during one of my fieldwork sessions that I realized that teaching was my passion. I was observing in a second grade classroom, gathering data for one of my school psychology assignments. After two hours, I hadn’t collected any data because I was so engaged with the lesson. This is when I realized my calling was teaching children, not testing them as a school psychologist all day. Therefore, I returned to school to obtain my teaching certificates in elementary and special education so I could provide engaging, hands-on lessons that meet every student’s learning needs.

To me, teaching is understanding that each student is unique. It is designing lessons to accommodate students’ different learning styles to provide a quality education in the diverse classroom.

Seth Van Gaasbeek
Substitute Teacher
Circleville Elementary School / Pine Bush Central School District
Pine Bush, NY

SUNY New Paltz graduate. The program received an OSEP-funded grant:
84.325T: Special Education Preservice Program Improvement Grants


Chelsea Iobst

Chelsea Iobst

Chelsea Iobst

My college president always preached that what you give to others, one day they will give to someone else and if we can keep this chain going we have done our part. Teaching to me is giving knowledge to others in the hopes that one day they will give it to someone else. I teach so that my students will show kindness to a stranger with no expectation of anything in return. I teach so that one day my students will have more than tolerance for all types of people no matter their race, religion, or culture. For many of the kids at my school, new experiences outside of the school walls do not exist. They do not get to create memories or moments that can change the rest of their lives.

I am not just their teacher; I am their chance to see the world from within the walls of our classroom!

Chelsea Iobst
Alachua Elementary School
Alachua, Florida


Teachers Change Lives at:

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“Why I Teach” — Gaudet, Paterra & Dorestant

Teachers Change Lives at:

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Felipa Gaudet

Felipa Gaudet

Felipa Gaudet

I teach for the children—for the people they are and the people they will become. I teach in a vibrant; economically, ethnically, racially and linguistically diverse; Title I school because I believe in the power of education to transform lives. As a teacher, I am an advocate for my students and their families. I strive to understand their needs in the context of equity and diversity, as well as analyze and prepare the curriculum and our institution to meet those needs.

As a Montessori teacher in a public school, I am dedicated to enabling each child to discover who they are and what they love while critically examining the world around them. I design learning experiences so the students will make connections on a personal level, cooperate and communicate effectively with one another, and reflect upon ways to improve and celebrate their own actions, skills, talents and abilities.

Felipa Gaudet
Elementary I Teacher—Grades 1–3
George Washington Montessori School—Kingston City School District
Kingston, NY

Graduate from a SUNY New Paltz dual licensure program.
The program received an OSEP-funded grant:
84.325T: Special Education Preservice Program Improvement Grants


Matthew Paterra

Matthew Paterra

Matthew Paterra

I was a career changer. After earning my Master’s degree in Public Policy and International Affairs, I worked on large scale research projects for a few years. During that time, I came to the decision that I wanted to impact the lives of children directly. I took a professional and economic risk to return to school to earn my Master’s degree in Education with dual certification in secondary Special Education and Social Studies at the University of Pittsburgh.

My student teaching experiences were at an urban Middle School in Pittsburgh, where I fell in love with my students and the job of teaching. Currently I am Special Education teacher at a High School in the Federal Way District, near Seattle. My training as a teacher provided me an opportunity to relocate across the country and have a job that brings great personal and professional satisfaction. I am passionate about improving the reading skills of the teenagers in my school.

Matthew Paterra
Decatur High School
Federal Way Public Schools
Federal Way, WA

Graduate from University of Pittsburgh program with a dual certification.
The program received an OSEP-funded grant:
84.325T: Special Education Preservice Program Improvement Grants


Stephanie Dorestant

Stephanie Dorestant

Stephanie Dorestant

I became a special education teacher initially because I wanted to make a difference. I wanted to help students in struggling communities who had learning hurdles overcome those barriers and be successful in the classroom. Now in my sixth year of teaching, I’ve realized that my teaching is about filling students with knowledge, exposure, and empowerment. The more I pour into them, the better prepared they are for the next challenges they will face in life. One single educator can impact so many lives.
I teach because I have been blessed to have had so many influential people pour excellence into my cup and I feel the responsibility to do the same for the next generation. My hope is that I can inspire a few to want to keep it going and give back when they have the opportunity to do so.

Stephanie Dorestant
Maynard Evans High School
Orlando, FL


Teachers Change Lives at:

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“Why I Teach” — Carissa Barnes, Olivia Enders & Matthew Kirchmann

Teachers Change Lives at:

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Carissa Barnes

Carissa Barnes

Carissa Barnes

During middle school service learning, I volunteered at a childcare center that provided service to families typically turned away from centers due to money or the needs of their children. I quickly realized my adoration for helping children “level the playing field”. This adoration, coupled with my passion for social equality, drove my decision to educate students with special needs. Watching students overcome the barriers presented by their exceptionalities is my daily affirmation. Every day, I witness exceptional students strive to take ownership of their lives and their education in the face of perceived limitations and a lack of societal awareness.

I firmly believe that my fundamental job as a special educator is not simply to help students navigate their school career or prepare for postsecondary outcomes but to help them claim/reclaim their lives. This charge serves as my humbling, call-to-action each day and is the reason why I teach.

Carissa Barnes
Special Education Resource Teacher
Stonegate Elementary School
Silver Spring, MD


Olivia Enders

Olivia Enders

Olivia Enders

My interest in education came from a deep appreciation of learning and the opportunities that education provides individuals. It also comes from the realization that not all students are provided with equitable access to these opportunities. As I started to volunteer more in public school systems through local Pittsburgh organizations, I realized that these barriers to quality education, though complex and often intimidating, are not insurmountable. I wanted to do something about those barriers, and felt that teaching was a career in which I could have a tangible impact, connecting students to education so that they could become the best versions of themselves.

I am currently a middle school learning support teacher at Peters Township Middle School [in Washington County]. My favorite aspect of my job is when I can celebrate the varied successes of my students, whether that be their acing a challenging math test, learning how to ask for help, finding deeper meaning in Shakespeare, or earning Hot Cheetos as part of a behavior plan. I find that taking time to appreciate both the large and small gains creates a dynamic atmosphere where learning is exciting for students, and I look forward to being a part of that atmosphere every day.

Olivia Enders
Special Education Teacher
Peters Township Middle School
Peters Township, PA

Graduate of the Secondary Dual Certification Special Education/English Education
Master of Special Education with Academic Instruction Certificate (MOSAIC) Program at the
University of Pittsburgh. The program received an OSEP-funded grant:
84.325T: Special Education Preservice Program Improvement Grants


 

Matthew Kirchmann

Matthew Kirchmann

Matthew Kirchmann

I have been asked many times the question, “Why do you teach”? There are many reasons why I teach but the most honest response is, to have the ability to improve the future of society. Children today have the ability to make the world a better place, as they become functioning citizens in society. I know that I have been given a very important role in my life and can ultimately improve the quality of life for not only the children I teach, but also for members of society.

As a Special Education teacher in a high poverty area in the South Bronx, I truly understand the struggles that families face each and every day. I am given the responsibility to alleviate some of the stresses by providing quality special education services to those in need.

I dream to see my students sore to their greatest potential and that is the true answer to the question, “why do I teach?”

Matthew Kirchmann
Special Education Teacher
PS 314—Fairmont Neighborhood School
Bronx, NY


Teachers Change Lives at:

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“Why I Teach” — Jamie DiCarlo, Stephanie Rosa & Heather Marzullo

Teachers Change Lives at:

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Jamie DiCarlo

Jamie DiCarlo

Jamie DiCarlo

Why do I teach? That is a question I am often asked, especially when people find out that I teach students with autism spectrum disorders. I will tell you one thing, it is not because “I am a special person” or “I have a lot of patience” like most people say when I tell them my profession. It is because every child has the right to learn. I love reaching the kids that nobody else can reach and seeing them become positive members of the school community.

That is why I teach, students need to know that there is someone there for them no matter what, to advocate for those without a voice, support them when they feel as though no one else can, and to love them unconditionally. I teach for my students, to make their world a better place, even if it is just for the school day.

Jamie DiCarlo
Special Education Teacher
Seminole Elementary
Tampa, FL

See Jamie on ED’s Facebook and Instagram pages.‬


 

Stephanie Rosa

Stephanie Rosa

Stephanie Rosa

In second grade I had big goals to go to Harvard to become a dolphin trainer and an Olympic swimmer. Even though I didn’t make it close to Harvard or the Olympics, I realized that having goals is extremely important, so I knew that becoming a teacher would allow me to motivate other children of all races, religions, and backgrounds. Now, I work on a military base where students are constantly moving from base to base and have hectic lives.

I love when each student walks in and sees me and my smile and can relax, feel comfortable, and have a stable environment. It is an amazing feeling when they smile and tell me about their future goals and new adventures. I love being their biggest cheerleader and will always help them achieve whatever goal they set, even if it is becoming valedictorian of Harvard!

Stephanie Rosa
1st Year Teacher | Fourth Grade Special Education
Major George Welch Elementary School
Dover, DE

Graduate of a SUNY Fredonia program that received an OSEP-funded grant:
84.325T: Special Education Preservice Program Improvement Grants

#getmotivated
#setgoals

See Stephanie on ED’s Facebook and Instagram pages.‬


Heather Marzullo

Heather Marzullo, 6th grade ELA/MCL, HW Smith School, Syracuse, NY

Heather Marzullo

Helping students realize their potential and see what they can be… that’s the most rewarding thing in the world. Showing children their value and making them see what I see when I look at them-that’s why I teach. Getting a child that has never wanted to pick up a book become so immersed in the plot—that’s why I teach. Every day I want to give my kids what they need in order to thrive and if I do my job—then they can do theirs. Educating our future creates sustainability and ensures that values that matter like respect and having empathy are carried on.

I feel extremely fortunate that so many parents share their most precious gifts with me, and it is my hope that I can send them out into this world motivated to not only gain educational success but also to understand that nice matters.

Heather Marzullo
6th grade ELA/MCL
H.W. Smith School
Syracuse, NY

Graduate of a SUNY Cortland program that received an OSEP-funded grant:
84.325T: Special Education Preservice Program Improvement Grants


Teachers Change Lives at:

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