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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.

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Angela Schooner

Angela Schooner is an early-career, high school special education teacher. She works with 14 to 21-year-old students at Pillar High School in Livingston, New Jersey. Read her inspiring story of how living with ADHD has both challenged and inspired her to achieve her dreams.

Throughout life, there are challenges that you must face in order to fulfill your dreams and desires. One challenge I learned to face is having ADHD and still making my dreams of being a special education teacher possible.

Going through school was challenging, but with the assistance of my many teachers and supporters I was able to succeed. ADHD is a disability, but it is not a reason to stop trying to push for your dreams. If I allowed the negative ideas to take over then, I would never have seen the ABILITY that comes with ADHD.

I will be the first to say that learning is not the easiest and there have been many times I've wondered why I am different and not "normal." This idea held me back from wanting to socialize and to learn for some time in my life—until a few of my teachers and school supporters saw something in me and taught me to believe in the ability not the disability. When this happened, I realized that hard work and dedication really do help you in life.

Through college, the same challenges appeared. However, now I was determined to be a teacher, and looked for assistance in all facets of my life. I knew it would be hard, but I was not going to give up like many do. I wanted to inspire people and myself that the word disability doesn't mean you are not able. This pushed me to learn one of the best lessons, which is to advocate for yourself. Advocating allowed me to gain confidence in myself that others who had watched me grow up always knew I had. This drive of advocating and confidence ultimately allowed me to earn my masters in Teaching and Special Education in one year. 

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Through the challenges in life, I am glad I never gave in to the pressure of having a disability because if I did, I would have never had the opportunity to be a special education teacher at a school for all special need students. These abilities allow me to gain a better understanding of who the whole student is and how to work with them. This idea of knowing the whole student came to be when my first year of teaching was a whirlwind with a worldwide pandemic.

When the pandemic hit, I quickly had to learn how to transfer hands-on work to the computer with minimal time and ideas as to how this would work, but I knew I could not let myself, my students, or my school down. This is when I knew it was my time to shine and help all improve on technology and video chatting, as well as to show my school that I am the right one for the job.

From this courage and advocating, I have learned that ADHD is an ability that can shine through at the correct moment and never to let something small define your future. I will continue to learn about myself through the many eyes of my students as I move forward on this amazing teaching adventure and the countless lessons I will learn in life.

Posted:  17 August, 2021
teacher holding microphone for young man in wheelchair
Author: Angela Schooner

Pillar High School, Livingston, NJ

Read more from Angela Schooner

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