Special Education Flourishes at AHS

Special Education teachers, paras, and students find a safe environment in room 514.


Isabelle Symonds

Room 514 is equipped with all of the essentials for students to learn life skills.

Isabelle Symonds

You may be wondering what goes on in room 514 at AHS, the special education room. Special education is the practice of educating students in a way that accommodates their individual differences, disabilities, and special needs. 

In the special education room, Cecily McCuen teaches levels two and three. She teaches core classes like math, reading, social studies, and science while also teaching others like spelling, handwriting, and life skills. Life skills is a class preparing students for life after high school. It consists of things like interpersonal skills, which are how to communicate with others, being assertive, study skills, personal appearance, and housekeeping. McCuen also prepares them for future jobs by practicing interviews and applications. They learn how to handle money, along with bank skills, how to write checks, and how to pay bills. At the beginning of the second semester, McCuen teaches a growth mindset course to help students get back in the “groove” after Christmas break.

They have a food management class where students learn how to cook simple meals in the classroom kitchen. Then, at the end of the year, they have a driving course that is not certified, but McCuen tries to get them prepared for driver’s education. She records most of her classes on zoom so students who aren’t in the room while she is teaching still have the opportunity to learn it without her having to teach it all over again. Once McCuen feels like students are ready, they will go to general education classes at AHS and learn in that environment with a paraprofessional. 

Some struggles for the special education staff are how some students treat their special education peers. Para Kerry Jepsen said, “I feel [gen ed students] don’t understand [special education students] enough.” Another struggle is the lack of support and lack of opportunities gen ed teachers give special ed students and paras. Sometimes things happen at school or at home to students that the paras and teachers don’t find out about until later, and they wish they could have done something differently to help them out. 

McCuen said that sometimes they get caught up in managing the room and teaching and that they sometimes forget to ask students how they are. She said, “We have to do the academics but we have to be their people too.” For most staff in the special education room, the students are their favorite part of their job. Whether that means getting to see the light go off when students understand something or just being around the positivity in the classroom.

All in all, room 514 is a safe space for AHS’s special ed students. McCuen said, “If you don’t feel safe, you can’t learn.”