My career interests began early. My mother was working in Chicago Public Schools, and ever since eighth grade I volunteered in different classrooms. Through this experience, I developed an interest in working in Special Education and I set my mind to pursuing this when I applied to college. I entered the University of Illinois in the College of Education and selected a major in Special Education. After taking a few courses and talking with professors and academic advisors, I just knew it was a good fit. The professors were always very excited about the classes, and I was drawn to it. My practicum opportunities were particularly wonderful. I gained experiences in Champaign and Urbana schools, working with varying age levels. With Special Education you can work with students from Kindergarten to age 21, and the range of practicum experiences helped narrow down my preference. Personally, I just felt so comfortable with the younger kids!
There were a few influential people at Illinois who helped me along the way. I was the second person in my family to go to college (after my brother, who is also an Illinois alum), and I wasn’t sure what to expect or how to go about things. My first year graduate mentor helped me adjust to this new chapter in my life, supporting me through both school-related questions and questions unrelated to school. It was a support system apart from family that was able to really help me through my first year. I learned how to be more independent. Secondly, my supervisors at the Special Ed program placement were a great support system. Not only did they care about the practicum assignments, but they also took an extra step to give advice or to help out in stressful times. They were always there and willing to talk whenever I needed.
In my final student teaching placement, I worked with students in a dual language program at a bilingual school in the Urbana School District. It was a wonderful, eye-opening experience. At the end of my placement, I learned that the school was creating a new position for a Dual Language Special Education Teacher and they asked if I would be interested in saying on. I had planned to return to Chicago, but this was a great opportunity to work with the age group that I enjoy most and to use Spanish, my second language. It is a great learning experience. Now I am working on a bilingual endorsement and I also hope to complete a Master’s degree through University of Illinois, all while working as a teacher.
I encourage current Illinois students to use any and all available resources. As a student, I always sought sources of help, and I feel like I learned of new things that the University offers every year. For example, I found The Career Center and I went to the Union for social activities. Enjoy everything that might not be so readily available once you are out of college.
(Last updated: March 2016)