Michael Laharty, Special Education/Secondary Transition

Why did you become a Special Education teacher?

Long time ago, as I was going through school, I was always interested in being involved in some kind of service, some kind of helping, helping profession. I changed my major several times and I looked into different possibilities. My undergraduate work was working with students who were deaf and hard-of-hearing. That was fine and I enjoyed working some of the classes that I took and when I started doing my graduate work, I started working with autistic kids. Right at the end of my training, I had an opportunity to work with students with emotional, behavior problems. For whatever reason, probably a lot of reasons, that was the area that clicked for me. I think there is a certain niche, particularly if you’re teaching students who have special needs, there will be a niche where you click for whatever reason. It could be just an area of interest, or a certain type of challenge. For me, working with these types of students is very challenging, but I enjoy that. They are very much the underdog as far as systems go and as far as outcomes after school are concerned. So, to get in there and work with a group like this is progress that a person can make, or progress you can see a student make is very rewarding. We can be very creative, which is very attractive. We can come up with things that no one has come up with before. And over all, I think it is the challenges; the rewards come from making progress where no one else has been able to make progress before, and then having the students see the possibilities.