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Mary Beth Lynn SpEd 506 Special Education & LRE 9/23/12 Least Restrictive Environment at NTA National

Teachers Academy has an outstanding Special Education department. As witnessed during observations in Melissa Hausers self -contained seventh and eighth grade classroom, and while observing Cara Britz co-teach with a first grade general education teacher, it was very apparent that student learning was the number one priority. At National Teachers Academy, the level of professionalism and teaching quality of the special education teachers were both extremely high. Additionally, in speaking with Ms. Hauser and Ms. Britz, they were both in agreement that the best opportunity for their students to learn was in the least restrictive environment (LRE), thus they do whatever they can to aid their students in participating in the general education classroom setting whenever possible. In observing Melissa Hauser and Cara Britz, it was very interesting to witness their similarities and differences while in the classroom setting. Melissa Hausers fourth floor classroom at NTA was very welcoming, much like her genuine personality. It was evident that the students trusted her as their leader. She greeted them with a smile and kind reception and maintained her composure at all times. The classroom was arranged in a way that allowed the students to feel comfortable and at peace, from the couch and rug that looked out on the citys east side, to the tables that were stocked with supplies and intricately spaced to maximize student learning. Being that there were only eight students in the classroom, it felt spacious, yet Ms. Hauser knew exactly what was going on with each of the individual students at any given time.

When working on verbs with a small group of students, I heard her repeat herself many times, saying, What can you do? Can you _____ something? (inserting various words in the blank). Repetition was a technique she used frequently throughout the lesson, and it worked. It connected with the students, and they began to ask themselves the same questions she was asking them. While teaching the lesson, I also witnessed Ms. Hauser circulating the room with her eyes and narrating in order to keep all of the students engaged in what they were doing. Overall, Melissas classroom and style facilitated a pure learning experience. Although Cara Britz was teaching in a different setting, she used many similar techniques as Melissa. In working on reading with a small group of first graders, Cara was very diligent in keeping them on track. She was in Ms. Lynchs general education classroom, where she co-teaches four days per week for thirty minutes each. The setting was again very welcoming. In fact, the classroom seemed to run itself. Twentyfour first graders were engaged and learning from the moment the door opened. The students knew exactly what to do and when to do, with very little prompting or redirecting from the teachers. Caras instruction was focused without being intrusive; she required them to think on their own but was generous in aiding them if they needed help with a word. She gently corrected students if they mispronounced a word or used incorrect grammar. Because Ms. Lynch was outside the classroom working one-on-one with another student, Ms. Britz too circulated the room with her eyes in order to make sure all students were engaged and on task. The atmosphere in the classroom was filled with primary colors, letters, numbers, and various learning stations. The rocking chair on the rug created a safe place for students to relax while listening to a good book!

Although Melissa and Cara had different demeanors, they both exuded professionalism and a genuine care for their students and the learning that was taking place. The preconceived notion of what special education used to be was not at all what I witnessed through observing Ms. Hauser and Ms. Britz teach at National Teachers Academy. Whether in a self-contained or general education classroom, their students learning was the number one goal, and it was evident through their attitudes and delivery. It was clear in their interactions with the students that they were both extremely proficient in their crafts and that learning was most definitely occurring. Although Ms. Hausers classroom was self-contained, it did not feel as though the students were excluded, and even though Ms. Britz was in a general education classroom, her students were still getting the attention that they needed. Special education is no longer the place where only students with visible disabilities go so nobody else has to deal with them; it is a setting where any student who needs extra support can get it, because they are owed it. Although I never considered being a special education teacher, Ms. Hauser and Ms. Britz made me aware that a teacher is a teacher, no matter what subject one is proficient in. In fact, special education may be the most rewarding area to teach, because the students clearly need the extra help, and when one of them gets it, their pride shows through, which is ultimately very rewarding as a teacher (or at least for me!). Overall, many of my questions for Ms. Hauser and Ms. Britz are regarding routines. I am curious to know how they taught routines at the beginning of the school year, given the varied grouping of their students and the numerous directions they go in?

Additionally, I didnt notice any behavior issues while observing, so I am inquisitive as to how they prefaced behavior from the first day of school, as well as what their discipline structures entail? Again, both classrooms seemed to run themselves, so I was thoroughly impressed and engaged while watching what Melissa Hauser and Cara Britz were able to do with their students. It was remarkable, and I am proud to have the opportunity to work with such amazing teachers!