By: Erin Gietman
Teachers today undoubtedly have stressful jobs, but it is also a career that can be very rewarding. When you add students with disabilities into the mix, their jobs can be even tougher, but sometimes equally more gratifying.
Rachel Fisher, a middle school special education teacher in the severely intellectually disabled class at James Madison Middle School in Appleton, Wis, says although her job can be a challenge some days, there is nothing else she would rather be doing.
Fisher graduated from UW-Stout in 2000 earning a degree in Vocational Rehabilitation with a concentration in teaching mild to moderate cognitive disabilities in grades 6 through 12. “Intellectually disabled” is the new term used to describe individuals with severe cognitive disabilities, and while it is better than other language often used to describe the kids she teaches, she feels it is more derogatory than the formerly used “cognitively disabled”.
“We are so excited when we see them make the smallest accomplishments after many instances of modeling how to do something,” Fisher says. Besides feeling proud of their accomplishments she has also learned patience, persistence, and acceptance. Above all she has learned to see the person they are and not their disability.
It is obvious that Fisher loves not only her job, but the kids she teaches. It is important to spread awareness that people are more than just their disability, and allow the world to see these kids the way she sees them.
Fisher says her favorite part of her job is coming to work every day and making connections with her students. Being able to find students strengths and getting to know their personalities allows her to teach them in a way that suits their individual needs. Her classroom consists of seven kids, 2 full-time para-professionals who assist Fisher in the classroom, and another part-time para-professional.
Shadowing Fisher for the day gave me a new perspective on life, and the different struggles everybody faces. Although these kids are labeled intellectually disabled they are really just like most other middle school kids I met that day. Each with their own personality, likes and dislikes. It takes an incredibly strong person to be able to do this job every day, and Fisher is just one example of the many great teachers making a difference in the education system.