December 2016 Graduate Spotlights


December 2016 Graduate Spotlights

16 Dec 2016    

Rachel Bormann  |  Omaha, Nebraska  |  Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education & Special Education (K-6)

What influenced you to choose Nebraska for your undergraduate experience?
"As I was considering where I would like to pursue my collegiate education, Nebraska stood out among the rest due to the more personal nature of the relationships between students and staff. It was evident in touring campus and speaking with professors and representatives that the faculty at Nebraska has each student’s best interest in mind and is committed to serving as a support system, guide and role model. Furthermore, I was seeking an educational experience in which I would be challenged and provided with hands-on and applicable learning experiences that would more fully prepare me for my career. Nebraska provided such opportunities and had a reputation for encouraging student research – characteristics of an institution that I was looking for."

Why was a degree in special education the right fit for you?
"I truly believe that education has the ability to empower students and to prepare them for the diverse experiences they will face in life. As such, I was drawn to education in a general sense. Specifically within education, though, I have a passion for helping those students with special needs – those individuals who can thrive in an educational setting when simply provided with individualized supports. Therefore, a degree in special education was the perfect fit for me not only because I can serve those students with exceptional needs and can believe in their incredible potential, but also because they offer so much to me in return – continually teaching me valuable lessons about life within the educational context."

What was your favorite class in the special education program and why?
"Undoubtedly, my favorite class within SECD was SPED 303 – a foundational class regarding behavior management I the classroom. John Maag’s class helped me to grow with respect to my ability to manage those difficult behaviors that emerge within a classroom setting and that can often inhibit learning. The diverse instructional methods employed within this class gave me hands-on experience managing behavior and using the principles of reinforcement that can so positively impact students’ educational experiences."

What is next for you?
"Upon graduation, I will be stepping into a sixth-grade resource position within Omaha Public Schools. I look forward to developing my ability to provide inclusive special education services within the general education context to those students with special needs!"

How do you think studying in the Department of Special Education and Communication Disorders has prepared you for your future plans?
"My time within SECD has prepared me for my future role by providing me with diverse experiences working with students with special needs in the classroom context, by empowering me with foundational understandings of particular needs, and by developing my ability to provide responsive instruction and to recognize students’ needs."

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Ashley Olson  |  Omaha, Nebraska  |  Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education & Special Education (K-6)

What influenced you to choose Nebraska for your undergraduate experience?
"I chose to attend Nebraska because of the various opportunities to experience a true school setting early on in the education program."

Why was a degree in special education the right fit for you?
"I had always known that I wanted to teach, but never thought that I wanted to teach special education. My degree in special education was mainly to make myself more marketable for a general education position. However, I knew right away after my first experience teaching special education that it was the right fit for me. I am extremely passionate about meeting the diverse needs of all students and learning new ways to program for different styles of learners. Now I can’t imagine teaching anything else!"

What was your favorite class in the special education program and why?
"Throughout my experiences in the College of Education and Human Sciences, all of my favorite classes have been from the special education program. The two classes that I had taken that really guided me toward special education were John Maag’s behavior management and Sue Kemp’s collaboration class. I use all of the information that was learned in both of these classes on a daily basis when teaching both general education and special education. I definitely would not have made it this far without them!"

What is next for you?
"I am very excited to have accepted a full-time position as a special education teacher in the Westside Community school district in Omaha. I will be teaching both kindergarten and first grade at Prairie Lane Elementary."

How do you think studying in the Department of Special Education and Communication Disorders has prepared you for your future plans?
"Throughout my undergraduate career, I was able to refine my skills and also learn many new skills through hands-on learning in all of my practicums. I had the opportunity to apply them to a classroom setting, which really helped to prepare me within my career in special education."

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Diana Petelle  |  Corning, Iowa  |  Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education & Special Education (K-6)

What influenced you to choose Nebraska for your undergraduate experience?
"I chose to pursue my undergraduate degree as a non-traditional student at Nebraska because I felt I would receive an education full of enriching experiences. Many of the teachers I know in the community graduated from Nebraska and spoke highly of the professors and courses within the education program. After receiving a tour of the campus, I knew this was the place for me!"

Why was a degree in special education the right fit for you?
"Ever since I was a little girl, I have always wanted to be a teacher. After high school, life took me in another direction and I worked in the human resources field for 12 years. One day I was evaluating my career and decided I wanted to pursue my dream of becoming a teacher so that I could make a difference in the lives of others. I chose to enter the elementary education and special education dual major program because I have a passion for working with younger students, especially those with special needs."

What was your favorite class in the special education program and why?
"Although I enjoyed all of my special education classes, my favorite was SPED 480 which focused on developmental disabilities. Throughout this course, I learned a great deal about systematic instruction, task analysis, adaptations, collaborative teaming, inclusion, and a vast amount of information about a variety of syndromes. After completing this course, I am confident I have obtained the knowledge, strategies and skills to work with a diverse group of students as well as the ability to successfully collaborate with my colleagues and administration."

What is next for you?
"A true teacher is constantly growing and learning. I plan to continue my education by obtaining a Behavior Specialist Graduate Certificate and a master’s degree in special education at Nebraska. I look forward to learning from my colleagues and administrative staff as well as becoming more involved in professional organizations such as Council for Exceptional Children (CEC) and the National Association of Special Education Teachers (NASET)."

How do you think studying in the Department of Special Education and Communication Disorders has prepared you for your future plans?
"After studying in SECD, I feel I am well prepared to enter my teaching career. I had had many positive classroom experiences throughout my practicums and student teaching. I have been taught a plethora of teaching strategies to take into my future classroom and have a great understanding of the skills needed to be a successful teacher."

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Jacob Chip Nielsen  |  Master of Arts in Special Education
Hometown: South Omaha, Nebraska  |  Currently Residing: Kathmandu, Nepal

What made you choose Nebraska's special education program for your master's degree?
"I chose Nebraska because it offered the program I was looking for at a distance, which was huge with me being abroad. Also, I grew up corn fed and Husker bred."

What took you to Kathmandu, Nepal, and how long have you been there?
"I have been overseas teaching internationally for four years now. Previously, I was teaching and coaching in Omaha Public Schools and had the itch to try international teaching (which I highly recommend)."

Describe your experience completing your master's entirely online. How difficult was it, especially while living outside of the United States?
"There have been difficulties completing my master's online. Firstly, there is always the communication barrier of not seeing face to face, but also living in a developing country, the connectivity of internet is not always working. Most of the professors were very flexible with that, especially when our host country went through a 7.9 earthquake last spring."

How did Nebraska's master's program in special education help you grow professionally?
"There have been professors whose courses I have taken throughout my pursuit of my master's who have made me question and challenge practices within education. This keeps me constantly thinking of best practices."

What is next for you?
"Now that I will have acquired my master's, I will pursue leadership positions in education, perhaps running my own department at some point."


Special Education and Communication Disorders