Thank you to our Special Education teachers!


John Brooks

Tell about a difficult situation that you were presented with in your years of teaching?
“Ten to twelve years ago I had a couple of students get shot and killed. One boy was still a student here and his parents did not have enough money to bury him so he had to stay on the ice at the morgue until they gathered the funds to bury the son.”

How do you motivate a student who does not want to learn?
“If I had an answer to that I would be a multimillionaire. If a teacher or administrator could find a solution to motivate students, I feel they need to find that within themselves. It is a difficult challenge trying to motivate students.”

Should there be more funding for our special ed classrooms?
“It is actually a separate amount of money. I do not think the students here are lacking the money for the services that they need, or the programs that they are in. There is a need for additional help when it comes to mental health services and for students who might need help with their emotional needs. If anything that would be an area that is lacking funding.”

What are your feelings about velcro?
“It is a sticky situation. It is a helpful tool, I don’t really have a stance on it.”
How do you respond when you hear the “r” word?
“That is a old school term. Back then, the [r-word] was used regularly but now it is considered derogatory and we have more user friendly words such as disability in its place. But maybe in ten years that word will be considered derogatory so it just depends on the time and place.”

Ashly Gonzalez

What is a typical Saturday night for you?
“Pretty normal. Watching Netflix and falling asleep, or going out to dinner; basically relaxing.”

If you were trapped on a desert island, what would you bring?
“My husband, a boat, and some paint because I love to paint.”

What is your favorite food from the cafeteria?
“Pepperoni pizza.”

How would you define success?
“Make a goal, accomplish the goal, and make new goals. I believe success is growth.”

How long does it take you to memorize student names?
“About a month.”

David Happeney

Why did you decide to pursue teaching?
“There was a program for a mid-career change, so I went from a real estate agent to a teacher.”

How have former teachers impacted your teaching?
“I always remember the best teachers I have had and how they encouraged me. I want to encourage my students in that way as well.”

What was your favorite toy growing up?
“My Hot Wheels set. I had a lot of cars growing up.”

What is your perfect pizza?
“Probably just pepperoni on top.”

What is the most inspirational quote someone has told you?
“Think big, and do not listen to people who tell you it can not be done.”

Elizabeth Herrera

If you could teach any other subject, what would you teach?
“I would teach history, ancient or modern. I love history, I love to travel, and I love how history ties into literature.”

Is being book smart the only way to succeed in life?
“Absolutely not.”

What is the worst thing about the school system today?
“I wish there was more time to know each student individually.”

Why did you decide to pursue special education teaching?
“It was to pay back the opportunity for me to pay back entering the school system. I started as a teacher’s assistant, then a work ability case manager and I would not have been able to or motivated to teach without exposure to special ed.”

How do you define success?
“I define success as being happy with your family and yourself.”

Laura Siefken

What is the hardest thing about being a teacher?
“Probably having to teach students in different ways because they all learn differently so we have to really switch things up alot.”

Describe the worst parent you have encountered?
“I have mostly had really good parents. The worst parent would be the one that was constantly emailing me, telling me that their child was turning in work when they had not. I finally had to tell the parent that the student was lying and he had a number of assignments missing.”

If you could choose between ice or hot water every day which would you choose?

Describe your philosophy of teaching?
“Every student can learn, they all learn differently, and not one way is correct. I just have to be able to adapt to each student.”

Is there something you constantly lose at your house?
“My cat. Because he will disappear, I will call him, look under chairs, and then two hours later he will be walking around the house.”


Eric Tabatabai

Who influenced you to become a teacher?
“I have multiple cousins that are teachers and I would visit their classrooms so that inspired me.”

What did you get for your last birthday?
“My birthday is actually coming up, but I remember last year I got a pair of shoes.”

How would you react if one of your students was called the R-word?
“I definitely do not like it. When people make others feel unaccepted, they do not know that there are people who have mental disabilities out there. It is very disheartening for the parents and normally the person who is saying the [r-word] has no idea what they really mean.”

What is the importance of acceptance in today’s world?
“I think it is very important for everybody to feel accepted because it gives you confidence and makes you happier.”

Which do you use most often, a dictionary or thesaurus?
“A dictionary.”


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