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