CEC Student President Shows Christ’s Love While Earning Bachelor Degree in Special Education
Grace College student Haley Carson has a heart for children with disabilities. As an elementary education and special education major, Carson knows the profound impact that special education teachers have on students. Throughout her time at Grace, she has had many opportunities to apply what she’s learned in her courses and show Christ’s love to children through practicums, jobs, and the Council for Exceptional Children (CEC).
Carson grew up only 20 minutes from Grace in Etna Green, Indiana. She was familiar with Grace’s campus and the Winona Lake area and often took walks around Grace’s campus. Her familiarity with Grace influenced her college decision.
“I chose Grace because they offered a high-standard education program where I could obtain both my elementary and special education licenses,” shared Carson. “They were also a Christ-centered college that was close to home.”
Grace required Carson to have a concentration to her education major. While education students often choose to concentrate on language arts, mathematics, social studies, or science, Carson chose a different path. “I didn’t want a traditional concentration, and Grace offered dual licenses in elementary education and special education, so I chose special education and fell in love with it,” said Carson.
Grace’s bachelor degree in special education has prepared Carson for teaching special education through rigorous coursework, technology training, and 150+ hours of classroom experience.
“The special education program is very challenging, but Dr. Bremer, the dean of the School of Education, is intentional about giving students practical strategies and getting students into special education placements before student teaching,” shared Carson.
Out of all the classes Carson has taken for her bachelor degree in special education so far, Teaching Students with Emotional and Behavioral Problems has been her favorite. During this class, she learned how to implement positive behavior supports and how to help students with disabilities regulate their behavior.
She also applied what she learned through a practicum with Claypool Elementary’s WIN program. The WIN program provides a separate classroom for students with emotional and behavioral disorders who are no longer safe in a general classroom and need more behavioral support. “We just had so much fun in class, and my clinical placement was a good learning experience,” said Carson.
Through practicums like the one at Claypool, Carson has learned what to expect when teaching in special education. “I know that each day is going to be different from the next and each student is different,” shared Carson. “What works for one student will not work for another, and you have to be fast on your feet to problem solve in the moment and use the tools you have been taught.”
Although Grace’s School of Education has provided Carson with several opportunities to work with children with disabilities, Carson has gone above and beyond, gaining additional experience at Presby Preschool in Warsaw, working with students who need extra help to prepare for kindergarten.
“I pull students one-on-one, in small groups, and within the classroom to tutor on anything related to academics, social interactions, behavior, and transitions to their next activity,” explained Carson.
In addition to working at Presby, Carson serves as the student president of CEC. Grace’s chapter of CEC, the largest chapter in Indiana, serves and advocates for individuals with disabilities and provides professional development opportunities for Grace students. CEC partners with Cardinal Services, an organization in Warsaw that helps people with disabilities and their caregivers for many of its events. CEC is also committed to community outreach, such as Tim Tebow’s Night to Shine and What’s Next Day.
“My favorite CEC event is Cardinal Cards,” shared Carson. “It is so much fun to fellowship while making Christmas cards to give the residents a simple gesture that makes their whole month.”
As the president of CEC, Carson has additional responsibilities besides serving at CEC events. She meets with Dr. Cheryl Bremer, dean of the School of Education, and the faculty sponsor of CEC, to discuss the vision and goals of CEC. Carson also plans board and club meetings, supports the board in their duties, and communicates with Cardinal Services and other outside organizations.
“Haley is serious about her own professional development as a future special education teacher,” said Bremer. “She is committed to building disability awareness on our campus and demonstrates a servant heart as she plans and leads outreach events in the community for those who are affected by disabilities.”
Thanks to the abundant opportunities to gain hands-on experience, Carson plans to work with preschool or elementary children after she completes her bachelor degree in special education.
“I know I have been called to teach in the special education field,” reflected Carson. “This field is often overlooked because of the hard work and dedication that teachers have to put in. God has called me to love students who need someone to advocate for them in the classroom so that they are able to learn to their full potential. I know I am called to show students Christ’s love.”