by Janie Haugen-McLane, Co-Founder PCI Education
I arrived in Special Education through a side door. When my accounting job in Houston, Texas ended in 1987, (because the company closed unexpectedly) the want-ads became my new friend. A small ad caught my eye: Need teacher with degree to work with adults with special needs in classroom setting.
Janie Haugen-McLane (Back in The Day)
Having volunteered at Special Olympics before and loving it, I hurried over to a large residential campus in the River Oaks section of Houston. The administrator took me on a tour to visit the classroom where 30 adult students (ranging in ages from 18 to 70) and two teachers occupied an extremely large room. After introducing me to the students, these dedicated educators explained why they loved working there. Within minutes the students were gathered around me, all talking at the same time and begging me to be their new teacher. I was the one excited; no one had ever pleaded for me to work for them anywhere before. I was hooked and started my journey into Special Education.
There were ten students in the morning class and ten different students in the afternoon. My new job was to teach life skills… how to survive in the real world. I wanted to give to these students an exciting, fun and creative environment; I wanted them to have the best that life has to offer.
Wanting to beat the sludge of early-morning Houston traffic, I would arrive at the school more than an hour before the 8 a.m. class time. Since it was a residential facility, little by little, my students began knocking on the locked classroom door, pleading to come to class early. Together, we would work on getting the classroom ready for the day. We talked, we laughed, they learned, I learned… and as the days unfolded we learned about each other, about who and what we were.
In the first few days of teaching, one student was making the two “e’s” in his name backwards. Sitting down at the table by him, I showed him an easier way to make an “e.” Then he proceeded to write his name again with the backwards letters. Just as I began to say something else, he tugged on my sleeve, “Miss Janie, did they not tell you that there is something wrong with my brain?”
Stopping in my tracks, I excused myself to the other teacher and stepped outside the classroom. Tears welled up in my eyes. What had I been thinking? This was an adult man who had been trying to write his name correctly for over thirty years. In the whole, big scheme of things, what did it really matter? Upon returning to the classroom, I made a check-mark by his name signaling a job well done and assigned him another task. That day was the turning point in my life; I became the student… the student became my teacher.
Quietly and with little warning these students captured my imagination and heart. Special Education was the place where I belonged. Finally, I had discovered my life’s purpose. Life would never be the same.
Question of the Day: What drew you to a career in Education? PCI wants to hear and learn about your experience. Come on board with PCI and blog your story to the world.
Janie McLane Co-Founder PCI Education
Janie Haugen-McLane, creator of PCI’s flagship product, the best-selling Life Skills Programs, Series I and II, draws on her years of teaching to develop real-world, innovative educational products. She has conceived of and developed more than 95% of PCI’s proprietary products and has attracted a number of nationally recognized authors to PCI.