Vanderbilt Kennedy Center

Living the Lesson

Updated on 5/27/2009 9:55:16 AM.

Source: Vanderbilt Kennedy Center

By: Jan Rosemergy

When Angela Helman crossed the stage to receive her Master’s degree in special education from Peabody College of Vanderbilt University on May 8, her cheering section included not only her husband and family but also her students.

In January, Helman began teaching a Life Skills class of eight students at H. G. Hill Middle School, in Metro Nashville Public Schools. “I love it!” she said.

As an undergraduate at the University of Arizona, Helman majored in history. Her husband’s job brought them to Nashville, where she began working in Peabody’s Department of Special Education and discovered that she wanted to teach special education. Her program emphasis was reading disabilities, and she was a tutor at the Vanderbilt Kennedy Reading Clinic.

Helman’s students are in the seventh and eighth grades, ranging in age from 13 to 15. Learning is individualized for each student’s needs. “My students are loving and happy. It’s so fun to go to work everyday.”

Over the course of the day, she’s assisted by four aides who work with individual students, who also were present at the graduation celebration. “They’ve phenomenal. They are so good with these kids. They’ve taught me so much, it’s like receiving another degree to learn from them,” Helman said.

Part of her joy on graduation day is to share the celebration with both her family and her students-and to have her family meet her students. “I just wish everyone could meet them, because when you do, you love them,” she said.

Leisa Hammett, whose daughter Grace Goad is in Helman’s class, writes, “As a parent of a student with a ‘disAbility,’ I am deeply touched that this young, passionate teacher would think and wish to include my daughter and her peers in her special education graduate degree ceremonies. To me, this is a beautiful circle made complete: A new teacher, fresh from the country’s leading special education program, already successfully exercising her skills to teach exceptional students in the local public school system; helping her students merge into greater society; and then demonstrating this attitude of inclusivity by extending the privilege of celebrating in her accomplishment at the University. This is the extraordinary spirit that parents, such as myself, dream of having in the people who instruct our special children.”

Angela Helman's special education class

Angela Helman poses for a photo with students from her class after graduation on May 8, 2009.

Browse News

Have Questions?

Jan Rosemergy can answer your media-related questions or help connect you to one of our science or disability professionals.

Leave Feedback

Help the VKC improve its web site by completing a short survey. Your feedback is important to us!

VKC Website Feedback Survey

See Also...

Vanderbilt Kennedy Center Links

  • Vanderbilt University's Department of Special Education
    Ranked as a top-tier special education program in the nation by U.S. News & World Report for more than a decade, the department has long been a leader both in research and practice. The department ranks first in scholarly production among other departments at research universities in the United States, according to a new report by Academic Analytics.

News Releases and Media Mentions

  • The Blessing of Compassion
    Leisa A. Hammet writes in her blog about being moved by Angela Helman's decision to walk in her graduation ceremony with her LifeSkills special education students.

Research and Disability Topics