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Preparing tomorrow’s teachers to advocate for students with special needs

Posted: October 17, 2017  |  by Dreeben School of Education
Filed Under: Dreeben School of Education

Student visit Respite Center

Dr. Stephanie Grote-Garcia (far left) with her students at the Respite Care of San Antonio.

Teacher Education students from the Dreeben School of Education visit The Davidson Respite House at Respite Care of San Antonio to work with children every Tuesday. The Respite Care of San Antonio is the only emergency shelter for children with special needs in the state of Texas.

“My class has been going there for two years. We develop a curriculum and create lesson plans based on a theme,” said Dr. Stephanie Grote-Garcia who is an Associate Professor of Teacher Education. “During our last visit, we created leaves with children’s hands for them to decorate a tree. On the very bottom we spelled, Celebrating Each Other. The tree had all their handprints and we talked about the meaning of family. The art project represents a family tree.”

Students proudly sit in front of the project that they worked on with the children. They are able to visit through, Advocacy for Exceptional Learners, a course that introduces social justice teaching principles to learn about advocacy work for children with special needs, education issues, and community support services. The course is designed for students working toward a Special Education Minor in Teaching.

“This was my first experience going to a children’s Respite Care home. This class really helped me to better communicate with individuals. I thought it would be difficult and hard but it was actually really easy,” said Marina Bermea, a junior in the Teacher Education program.

The David Respite House provides short-term residential care for children with special needs. Its open 24 hours a day, every day. Children are enrolled in local schools, participate in regular activities, and follow routines identical to that of a child residing in a typical home environment.

For me, it just reminded me that you never know what each kid that sits in your classroom is going through, where they come from, or go home to, their whole history or background,” said Brianna Blagowsky, a fourth-year Teacher Education student. “It reminds me to advocate for them 24/7 because you could be doing a lot more for them, then you know, as a teacher.”

After visiting with the children, students attend classes to discuss new activities for the next visit. In class they learn about characteristics, learning needs, and educational placement of exceptional learners with low incidence disabilities. Students gain knowledge of special education considerations in legal and ethical issues, and social justice teaching principles as a lens for societal responsibility and change.

“A large focus is the Catholic Social Teaching Principles. We apply them to different field experiences,” said Dr. Stephanie Grote-Garcia. “In the spring of 2018 this course will be visiting K-12 schools in Helsinki, Finland to apply the same content to an International experience.

The Dreeben School of Education’s Teacher Education Program at the University of the Incarnate Word is a field-based program that provides intensive, authentic, and high-quality experiences in settings where preservice teachers can integrate theory with practice, observe effective teaching practices, embrace diversity, and develop their teaching in collaboration with university faculty. For more information about our program, visit Teacher Education.


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