Small gains mean big wins according to special educators Kolbe and Nickels

Lillian Webb, Opinion Editor

Special education is important, and its impact is undeniable for the incredible staff members who care for students who receive services. For many students, special education teachers are the reason they enjoy high school and succeed overall.

“In special education, you really celebrate small accomplishments. So, for example, there was one student who is having like a lot of trouble with daily living skills, and feeding themselves and trying to teach them to use a napkin, and one day, [they] independently picked up a napkin and used it and put it back down,” said Rolla High School special education process coordinator Angie Nickels. 

High school memories can be nostalgic both during and after high school. Teachers also have favorite memories and accomplishments, and special education is no exception. 

“My favorite memories always revolve around student achievement, whether that be academic or social…Sometimes when students first get here as freshmen, they don’t speak to other people. They have no social groups outside of, you know, themselves and a lot of times they’re consumed with their phones. So I really try to put them into after school activities like Anime Club or Star Wars,” said RHS special education teacher Lacie Kolbe.

Teaching is a difficult career, and there are many reasons why someone would become a teacher. 

“I have two brothers who have specific learning disabilities and reading. So I went through school with them. We’re very close in age, and the teachers didn’t treat them so well. A lot has progressed on the teacher front. Since even the late 90s When I was in high school. And I always just broke my heart to see teachers not understanding that if they could hear it read aloud to them, they understood everything,” said Kolbe.

It takes many different types of teachers to create the best learning environment for special education students. 

“So [special education] is just something that I feel like people should consider doing when they’re thinking about going into education…Don’t just scratch it off your list because you think that it’s just one thing because lots of different areas are inside that career,” said Nickels.

Every student deserves a chance and an opportunity to do their best. Special education is that chance for many students.

“Before you title a student as ‘lazy,’ please try to understand where they’re coming from and where their disability lies…From there, you can set really high expectations for a student based on what they’re capable of. And in my experience, they really do rise to the occasion when given a chance,” said Kolbe.