You don’t need to be a traditional classroom teacher to influence lives and leave students with a lasting impression. The following support teachers shape lives every day in a variety of settings. Some work in schools, while others work with kids at home or in the community. One thing they all have in common: they ROCK!
I work with mostly preschool to 3rd grade students, as well as older elementary students with functional mental disabilities. My job is the greatest because I am surrounded by children who keep me on my toes 100% of the time. Even when I am buried in paperwork, I know, without a doubt, I’m impacting lives daily. I give voices to the (literal and metaphorical) voiceless. I give fluency to the dysfluent. I give understandable speech to those who struggle daily with intelligibility. I give words to those whose words escape them. But every day, these students give me a reason to go to work and love my job. My job allows me to laugh and love and make a difference! – Kayla from KaylaSLP
Being a speech path means that I give kids a chance at learning how to use their voice to communicate. It can literally change their lives! That’s why I love what I do and especially working with kids in kindergarten and early childhood programs. They love speech therapy and they usually make big developmental leaps after just a short while. I love it when I find out that a student will not stop talking in class! My job is without a set curriculum so I can use individualized evaluation data to create a personalized therapy plan, which means I can be flexible with my planning to meet each student’s needs. Sarah from Speech is Beautiful
Being an SLP is amazing, because no day is ever the same! I get to work with kids from Pre-K to 5th grade with varying communication abilities. Nothing is better than watching a child go from no functional communication at all to communicating their wants and needs effectively, whether it be verbally, through sign language, or through some kind of alternative communication device! Communication is power, and to witness the progress after all the hard work is the best part of my job hands down! – Whitney from WhitneySLP
Being an ESL teacher is the BEST because working with students who are tackling a new language while, at the same time, learning a grade level curriculum is extremely rewarding. Can you imagine finding yourself in a new country, learning a new language, a new culture, and on top of all of that learning (and being assessed on) grade level curriculum? Just WOW! ESL students are so resilient! My job, as an ESL teacher, is to teach them English through learning the curriculum, so I get to be creative in my approach with lots of visuals and hands-on activities. Best of all, at the end of the year, I get see my students’ progress in their English literacy skills AND in the self confidence they’ve gained from navigating through their new experiences at school. – Kristen from Kristen Vibas
In the past I’ve been a classroom teacher for grades K-2, as well as a Title I reading specialist, but I enjoy teaching ESL the most. For one thing, I am never bored! I push into K-5 classrooms to pull aside ELs and work with them on the content they are currently learning in the classroom. I get to look at what the classroom teacher is doing with a different lens and find alternative ways to support ELs with that same content. It does require quite a bit of communication and collaboration with the classroom teachers, but I enjoy the opportunity to work with all ages and abilities. It is so interesting to work with newcomers, refugees, and students who come from all over the world – some from tiny island countries I have never heard of! I work with students from Mexico, Africa, Asia, eastern Europe, Micronesia, and even Luxembourg! – Nicole from Teaching’s a Hoot by Nicole Johnson
As a former classroom teacher, I quickly realized that my favorite part of the day was talking with my students. I loved helping students with problems, but found that there was little time during the school day to connect with students. Now that I am a school counselor, I have the best of both worlds! I still get to teach lessons in classrooms on a monthly basis and spend the majority of my day working with students one-on-one or in small groups. I love empowering students to be problem solvers and enjoy helping students learn new coping skills. As a school counselor, I also work closely with administration and take on a leadership role within the school. School counseling is a challenging job, but just like teaching, it is very rewarding to see the progress students make! – Kate from EduKate and Inspire
I love that I spend time with kids individually or in very small groups, giving me the opportunity to get to know them in a way other adults in the school don’t. My goals for students aren’t academic, so I have the flexibility to determine what to work on each week and how I’m going to work on it. If something important comes up in a conversation, I can abandon my plan and pursue it. I hear about kids’ dreams, their worries, their funny little stories—the kinds of conversations that most classroom teachers don’t have time for in their busy day. I feel like that relationship can be hugely important to many kids. And let’s face it—I’m in this for the hugs. – Laurie from School Counseling Files
My job is the BEST because I get to see my students learn, grow, and explore more than they ever imagined possible, every day! School can be so challenging for my kids, but I have the opportunity to help them find success. Watching a student finally be able to read, understand a word problem, or have some concept just “click” at last, is absolutely AMAZING and makes me feel so lucky to be their teacher! – Lauren from Lessons by Lauren
My job is the best because I get the luxury of celebrating the small victories. Regular education teachers have to focus on getting kids as close as possible meeting to their grade level standards. I, as a special education teacher, get to focus on progress not matter how small or simple. This includes much more than academic progress. – Kelsey from Tools for Busy Hands
I love using my knowledge and skills as a former special education teacher to now teach my teenage son, who has classic autism & sensory processing disorder. When my son was diagnosed at 2 years old his pediatrician said I shouldn’t bother trying to teach him anything because he’d never be able to learn. My son has proved that doctor wrong! Teaching him to speak, to play, to engage with us & to love learning hasn’t been easy, and even now some days are pretty tiring, but all the hard work is worth it! My son still has complex needs and faces many challenges, particularly his sensory issues, but he continues to make a little bit of progress every day. – Kristen from Curriculum for Autism
BCBA (Board Certified Behavior Analyst)
As a BCBA, I work in client’s homes with their families to help increase socially significant behaviors. This varies greatly on the needs of the client and family. This could be anything from teaching replacement behaviors, teaching social skills, or working in the community. It’s unique from my job as a special education teacher because it is much harder to implement behavior change in an unstructured environment (like the home or community). It’s much easier in a classroom where you can decide on the flow of the day and setup of your classroom. I also love it because I have a chance to train parents and help them understand their child’s behavior, which they are often so thankful for. It has been a shift from working as a special education teacher for so many years. – Liz from The Autism Vault
I love the opportunity to work with students going through the RtI process in a very small group setting. I really get to know them well. I also get to work with many adults during the day to collaborate on our students. My passion is working with emergent readers, but can also enjoy the variety of working with various grade levels and with different subject areas. No two years are ever the same in my position. Sometimes I get to work with my students for more than one year. Although their progress may be slower or different than many of their peers, I love being the voice of reason, who can really explain how much growth they have made over the course of several years when their homeroom teacher get discouraged. I enjoy the challenge of figuring out how my students best learn, what intervention will suit their needs, and I love creating learning materials for them that will be engaging, fit their learning style, and
will be memorable for them. – Taryn from Taryn’s Unique Learning
Working as a school based occupational therapist is the most satisfying and rewarding work I could have ever found! My job is a creative endeavor to find practical and successful ways to support and nurture individual special education students. Every day is a creative puzzle to understand the sensory and fine motor needs of children with disabilities and find the paths to their academic and social success. I am able to witness individual children blast through barriers to realize their maximum potential and become valued member of their community. What could be better!!! – Thia from Print Path
As a recreation therapist, my job is to teach leisure to kids with autism. While my students are incredibly hard workers, play and leisure skills can be lacking! I get to work on these skills through art, music, physical education, games, bike riding, swimming, exercise and community trips. Tell me I don’t have the best job!
I get to teach these life-long skills and build relationships with my students over toys. I get to dance, play BINGO and ride bikes on warm days. I get to see my kids’ faces light up brighter than the sun every Monday afternoon when I say “Okay, time to get in the pool.”
And perhaps just as important, I know my work is helping families. Mom can cook dinner because her son can entertain himself for 30 minutes with some of the activities we introduced at school. My students can go to the playground with siblings for the first time because we spent so many weeks practicing safe and appropriate behavior.
Seriously, I have the best job. – Carrie from Adapting for Autism
Adapted PE Teacher
Every day I get to help kids and young adults learn how to be physically active in ways they may not get at home due to their differing abilities, home life, social circle, etc. Most of my kids are unable to get to Special Olympics and other sport practices and events. I love celebrating the smallest of individual successes, even if that success is not repeated anytime soon after. I know that they have the potential to repeat that success again sometime in the future. I like finding creative ways to adapt and modify activities and equipment. No day is ever boring, even if it seems repetitive at times. One of the best things is that I learn from my students every day. – Cindy
I taught for 20 years, but now I homeschool my 6th grade son. It has been an amazing experience, and it has made such s difference for our family. My son has been able to discover how he learns best – and can take as much time as he needs to learn. I am also able to tailor the curriculum to his interests, so he is more engaged in his learning. It isn’t always easy, but it’s one of the best decisions I have made. – Amy from Amy Mezni
I love helping struggling students become successful readers. As a certified dyslexia practitioner, I get to work with some truly wonderful and talented kids who just need a different approach to help them achieve. Working 1:1 with children makes it possible for me to help them reach their goals. – Emily from Emily Gibbons The Literacy Nest
When I quit teaching to stay home with my three disabled children, I thought it would be a real loss as I loved teaching. Instead, I had the privilege of volunteering in each of my children’s classes every year, interacting with all kinds of kids and watching some real master teachers at work. Along the way, I began writing curricula for each of those teachers and tried it out with their kids. From this beginning, the Transition 2 Life and Daily Living Skills series was born to help mild-to-moderately affected special needs teens (and general education teens alike) learn the skills they need to become successful adults. And that said, my own kids are in college, or working towards being fully employed! My decision was a winner for us all! – Susan from Susan Traugh
Thank You Support Teachers!
No matter their specialty, we’d like to thank the teachers who contributed to this post, and all of the support teachers out there, for their dedication, patience, and expertise. Our kids make progress socially, emotionally, and academically because of these fantastic professionals.