As we enter our 100th year of leading special education, the Council for Exceptional Children (CEC) is recognizing exceptional educators from around the world who have shown a passion, dedication, and commitment to making a difference in the lives of the students who they teach. Hear from teachers about their personal experiences working in the field, and get inspired to make your own impact this year.
Derek Bunn is a Special Education Resource Teacher (SERT) with the York Region District School Board in Ontario, Canada. He has been a SERT for 16 years and currently works as a Multiple Exceptionalities Teacher with students who range in age from 14 to 21 years at Sutton District High School. He has taught students with physical disabilities and different levels of developmental disabilities. Before his teaching career, Derek was an Education Assistant (EA) for 7 years with the York Catholic District School Board. Derek also worked as a Personal Support Worker (PSW) with Community Living York Central for 24 years in which he supported adults with developmentally disabilities in their daily living.
Derek’s early career as an EA and PSW instilled in him the belief that children and young adults with physical and developmental disabilities could do more in their community if they are given a real opportunity. He recognized the importance of accessibility, functional life skills and a positive attitude in order to create change and inclusion.
These early experiences helped him to gain the confidence to become a SERT and to take a advocacy role within his school board and community. Within his classroom, he stresses the importance of communication. Derek uses a total communication approach in which students can access many resources to achieve communication and to get what they need. Students use picture communication systems, sign language and augmentative communication devices that can be activated by a finger touch, head movement, eye gaze or knee. Another goal in his classroom is social integration and increasing their social value in the school and community so that students with special needs are not isolated and alone. Making social connections within one’s school and expanding into the community allows students to have a sense of belonging and feeling that they can participate in the life of their community. Regardless of his students’ ability, they are encouraged to do visits within the school, learn school jobs, participate in community shopping and community recreation programs, learn transit training and give back to their community. Derek believes that this creates opportunities, helps to eliminate social barriers and promotes integration.
Derek has been thankful for having the ability to help others in his teaching role. He has met many wonderful people in his professional journey and lifelong friends and advocates. Through all of these experiences Derek believes that teaching and learning happens in two ways: giving students essential skills so they can achieve and educating our community on what students and young adults with disabilities need to achieve.
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