Read Related: Benefits of Inclusion for Kids With Special NeedsIt was September 2000. According to statistics, one hundred fifty thousand New York City children did not have a certified teacher in their classroom at the time. The main cause of the shortage was a high retirement rate and low interest in the field of education from the younger generation. In New York City, the United Federation of Teachers also blamed teacher salaries. In September 2000, a first-year teacher with a Bachelors degree earned $31,900. Recent graduates weren’t interested in the poor pay and a classroom full of kids, even with the enticing paid summer vacation. Neither was I, really. Still, off this body went, Bachelors degree in Communications (not education) in hand, to District 6, where they were evaluating transcripts of a future generation of (uncertified) teachers.
Me, a Special Ed teacher? I’ve never been a patient person. Not at almost 34 and definitely not at 22. Yet, after graduating from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, I took a profession where patience, understanding and even more patience is needed. I became a Special Education public school teacher. My formal training was nonexistent. Unless two summers teaching creative writing to middle school students counts as real world experience. At the time, I knew I wasn’t prepared to teach. I wasn’t even sure I wanted to teach. I was fresh out of college. I had emailed resumes and cover letters for months and had yet to receive a call back from NBC, ABC or CBS. I wanted to be a star! I also needed a job. And the NYC Department of Education needed…bodies.