Special Education Teacher Interview

     ED 220 Project by Kathleen Powers

Debra Vogt, Gifted Educator


  • 1. How long have you been teaching special needs children?

I have been teaching K-12 Gifted for 13 years.

  • 2. What made you choose the teaching profession and, in particular, teaching special needs children?

I have always enjoying teaching. It started when I was a teenager and volunteered to teach Sunday school. I have been told I am a natural born teacher. I taught my younger sister to climb out of her crib, which my mother didn't appreciate! I like to see a student's eyes light up when they have that Eureka moment of understanding something for the first time. I took a course in gifted as part of renewing my teaching certificate and found it helped me understand my own giftedness and others in my family as well. It just made sense to me and explained a lot in my own life.

  • 3. How have your ideas toward teaching changed with each passing year of experience? Can you recall your ideas about teaching when you were a teacher education student like me? What were they? What are they now?

I have seen the needs of children expand to include more basic needs such as safety and security and even hunger. Those needs were not so apparent when I started teaching. I have also seen the amount of testing and paperwork increase. Students do not seem to take education as seriously and they do not want to work as hard inside and outside the classroom.

  • 4. How does teaching children with special needs differ from teaching other children? What are some challenges you face in teaching special needs children? What are some rewards in teaching special needs children?

Gifted students special needs are more social/emotional then anyone would think. They know they are different and they don't find friends easily. They are concerned with world problems and can also become perfectionistic in their thinking. This comes from school being too easy for them. They do not know what it feels like to be wrong very often. When they do experience this it is interpreted as failure in their mind. They are very hard on themselves. They are not risk takers as a rule. They want to be sure they know what they are getting into and be sure they will not fail.

Having a student who has graduated keep in touch and tell me how I helped them is rewarding. I also hear from former students asking for a recommendation or college advice. That is another reward.

  • 5. What advice can you give me for teaching children with special needs in the regular education classroom?

Differentiation and choice is important for gifted student in the general education classroom. As a rule gifted students prefer to go into depth on topics. It is also important to offer them alternative assignments rather than the same assignment everyone else does plus more boring activities. Also, I often see gifted students paired with the students who need more repetition or help in understanding concepts. Please do not use gifted students to teach others. I advocate for them to be learning as well rather than teaching!

  • 6. What changes, if any, would you make to the educational system with regard to special needs children? Consider such aspects as inclusion, funding, state assessments, etc…

Funding for gifted is always an issue. It is not required by federal mandate so the state subsidizes part of it. I am given about $225 for all my students. I have about 25 students grades K-12 in four buildings and two different towns. That isn't much at all for a wide range of ages and abilities. People usually think gifted are smart and therefore they don't need anything. They are very complex individuals. They come with some baggage and I feel it is important to help them accept and embrace their giftedness. I do not have a classroom in some buildings. I use whatever is available. I have to haul everything with me from place to place. I would love to have one school where the students would attend and all the gifted could be in one building. I also do not have access to technology since I am on the move so much and that is a concern. I like to bring "cutting edge" information to my students. I do not have a curriculum and since funding is short I use the internet for many of my lessons!

  • 7. If you could choose another career field, would you? Please explain your answer in detail.

I would not choose a different career. I love my job even with all the "issues" I have complained about!

  • 8. Are there any comments you wish to add to close this interview?

No additional comments

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