Special Education Teacher, Ellington School of the Arts, Teacher for 3 years
This week, Dec. 6-10, marks the 10th Annual Inclusive Schools Week, which the Inclusive Schools Network has created to highlight and celebrate the progress schools have made in providing a supportive and quality education to all students. This year, DCPS is recognizing some of the teachers, classes and schools at DCPS that are working everyday to make sure they have created an inclusive environment for their students.
Seth Brecher is a special education teacher at Ellington School of the Arts. In his role, he collaborates with general education teachers to help modify lessons for inclusive classrooms. He also teaches a study skills class for incoming high school students to help them transition to high school and improve their academic capabilities.
Seth also is involved with the school’s college summit class, which prepares students for the post-secondary environment. This is Seth’s third year teaching with DCPS, and his second teaching at Ellington.
How do you create the best inclusive environment for your students?
The way we create inclusive environments is by making sure the services provided to special education students are seamless. Students don’t know which students have IEPs and which don’t because we provide support and accommodations in a way that other students can’t recognize.
It helps our special education students feel comfortable and included because nothing is different about their education except their accommodations, which help them access the general education curriculum.
Some of the services for students with IEPs also are for students without IEPs, such as tutoring before, during and after school, helping students help copy notes and improving study skills. If teachers have questions on how to teach to different learning styles – whether that student has an IEP or not – we are an active resource for strategies and tools to be better teachers to all students and their different strengths and learning styles.
We try to find strengths in all students and ways to be successful at Ellington and the world beyond. We have a real focus on transition for students with and without IEPs. We look at where they would be most successful and create opportunities here and outside of the school, so they can continue to be successful.
Why is so inclusion so important – both for special education and general education students?
All students should have the opportunity to access the same curriculum and the same standard. Special education students just access curriculum differently. Students will perform to high standards if they are challenged, and through inclusive environments, all students will be challenged and supported through different learning styles and levels of learning.
Only in inclusive environments can you create opportunities for students to really be challenged and supported by peers and teachers who are experts in a certain subject area.
Why did you become a teacher?
I became a teacher for different reasons. One, I think education is one of our nation’s biggest challenges. If we are to succeed in any aspect of any of the challenges our nation faces, it starts with education. Two, I think the school environment and school community is one of the best places to work – there’s lots of talent, lots of energy and the opportunity to make a difference.
Finally, my father was a principal and my mom was a teacher in the NYC system for years. I saw how it was a fulfilling career for them, and that’s one of the reasons why I entered the “family business.”
What is one thing a student has taught you about being a better teacher? How did he or she do it?
What makes me a better teacher is watching a student learn in different ways. For example, I have some students who are experts at technical design and production (one of the majors at Ellington) and when teaching, a student will make a connection between math and something in technical design.
Not only that, but they are making that connection themselves, talking about what this measurement will be like when I am designing. That makes me a better teacher because I need to think about those real world connections for my students and figure out how to use them in my lessons.
Parents are a critical part of their children’s achievement. How do you engage parents as you work to create an inclusive environment for your students?
Parent engagement is a critical component to creating an inclusive environment. It is important to introduce parents to the services provided for each individual student and provide timely updates related to positive progress as well as student challenges.
Additionally, as students with IEPs are included in general education classes, it is critical to build open lines of communication and a close working partnership between parents, general educators, the special education team and related service providers.
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Read more teacher profiles from Inclusive Schools Week »