As I look back on my professional journey, I often wonder how I ended up in Philadelphia, U.S.A. working in a fairly unique and specialized field as a Learning Specialist and Academic Coach. Each year when I share my journey with my college students in the Bryn Mawr and Haverford College Special Education class that I teach, I am reminded about what an interesting and fulfilling journey it has been!
After starting my career as an English and History high school teacher in South Africa (where I was born, raised and educated), in August 1991 I found myself in Philadelphia without an American Education degree or certification, but desperately wanting to teach. Despite my lack of experience working with students with special needs, I took the plunge and accepted a job in the International Program at Overbrook School for the Blind where I taught foreign, non-English speaking teens and young adults who were visually impaired. Thus began my journey into Special Education.
After actively pursing further degrees and certifications, I transitioned to The Crefeld School, a small, private progressive school in Chestnut Hill, PA. At Crefeld I wore many hats: English teacher, Learning Specialist, Director of Learning Support, Assistant Head of School and Interim Head of School. The transition from teacher to administrator was exciting and challenging, but after many years I became restless, and soon realized what was missing: the relationships one builds through direct contact with students. And so I decided to reinvent myself, yet again.
In 2008 I began my private practice doing the work I love – building relationships with students and helping them achieve success through direct instruction in skill building, self-knowledge, self-awareness, self-reflection and self-advocacy. At the same time I became a Visiting Instructor in the Bi-College Education Department of Bryn Mawr and Haverford Colleges. Each fall I challenge my students to explore current issues in special education, grapple with the evolving role of special education in schools today, and truly embrace the importance of personalized learning.