Childhood General & Special Education '12
I do my best work when I focus on the strengths of students, staff, and parents. I won’t lie, my first few years of teaching were hard, but Bank Street prepared me to take on the challenge. In the dual general and special education program, classes are small and the approach is progressive. It fit who I am perfectly.
Rachael Beseda is a Special Education teacher at PS 469x, The Bronx School for Continuous Learners, where she teaches sixth-grade math in a self-contained class of 12 students who are classified as emotionally disturbed.
Here’s what she has to say about her experiences in Bank Street’s Dual Certification Childhood General and Special Education program.
Why did you choose Bank Street?
Bank Street’s progressive approach aligned best with my educational expectations. I attended small, student-centered schools in elementary, high school, and college, and I continue to place great value on collaboration between students and teachers.
How did you select Special and General Education?
Honestly, I was shifting my career from working as a paralegal and I chose the dual certification program because of overall employability—I knew that teachers who were certified in special education were in demand in both public and private schools. Honestly, every single teaching position I have applied for and/or held has been because of my special education degree and certification.
How does what you learned at Bank Street impact your school day?
The students I work with have had difficult and negative experiences in school due to their behaviors. Many of them expect teachers/adults to see them negatively, and they often have difficulty identifying their own strengths and positive aspects. Bank Street taught me to always use strengths to address weaknesses. So every day, I look for the strengths in my students, verbally or nonverbally acknowledge these strengths, and use them as a tool/entry into working on academic skills.
Can you describe a situation where applying what you learned at Bank Street helped you with the challenge?
The first few years of teaching were hard. I was co-teaching in an ICT first-grade classroom. Although Bank Street did an excellent job of preparing me to teach, I made the mistake of focusing on academics in my first year—and not focusing on classroom management. In my second year, I began to incorporate more classroom management strategies I remembered from Bank Street and began focusing more on teacher-student relationships.
Do you feel that having the dual certification makes a difference in your day-to-day experience as a teacher?
Absolutely! After a few years of teaching, it is my personal opinion that all educators should be dual certified. Even typical students benefit from supports and strategies associated with special education.
What would you share with someone who’s thinking about attending Bank Street’s graduate school?
If you are serious about teaching, it is the best investment you can make in your career.