Oaklawn Elementary School special education teacher Emmie Stroede ’13, of Winneconne, spends each school day creating an inclusive and welcoming environment for all of her students.
In her eighth year of teaching, the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh alumna said no two days are alike in nature, temperament or structure.
“Right now, we have a very heterogeneous group of students. I have three students with autism who are non-verbal, but night and day different from each other, a student with an extremely rare chromosomal deletion, a student with a traumatic brain injury, a student with a physical condition affecting their brain and another with cerebral palsy. The laundry list of disabilities of my students comes with its own set of unique needs that I need to plan lessons for and accommodate my student’s need both physical and educational,” Stroede explained.
Stroede was originally drawn to special education after doing respite care for children with significant disabilities as well as austim therapy for a few students. She formalized her passion for helping her students to grow in skills and independence through her degree from UWO to which she credits her success in the classroom.
“My professors at UWO challenged me to be organized, creative and to be able to think quickly on my feet. Time in the classroom has taught me that special education isn’t just another teaching job; it is seeing and living life through the lens of accessibility. Educating these children is a marathon, not a sprint, It requires pacing, focus, flexibility, creativity and a foolish amount of optimism and energy,” she said.
Mentoring future educators
UWO cross-categorical special education student Roxanne Kakreka, of Schaumburg, Illinois, is getting hands-on training in Stroede’s classroom as she completes her student-teaching classroom hours. The experience has reinforced the skills necessary to build positive relationships with the students to help them feel safe and comfortable each day.
“I grew up in an inclusive school district where peers with disabilities were integrated into my classroom. I never saw them as different, they were my friends and contributed an immense amount to the classroom environment. My student-teaching experience has reinforced that every student has the ability to learn and deserves the best possible education we can give them. I know my career in special education will help me make a positive impact on the children in my classroom and that will mean the world to them,” Kakreka said.
Stroede has been a mentor to UW Oshkosh’s initial and advanced practicum students as well as those who need classroom observation hours. It is an important experience for all those who enter her classroom to understand the amount of collaboration and work that it takes to be a special education teacher.
“Roxy is an incredibly caring person; the students will miss her when she leaves us as she has formed very strong bonds with each of them. I am so proud of how she has grown in the last few weeks – planning detailed lesson plans while accommodating a student’s learning preferences and needs, delegating responsibility when needed and learning to use the aids in instruction. She is also willing to give up her own time to make sure students have what they need to enjoy the school day. I am so proud and cannot wait to see what she accomplishes in her own classroom,” Stroede said.