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I interviewed David Allen, Steve Newman, and Toly Walker, the Senior Studies teachers at Evanston Township High School. The mood of the room felt golden and energetic, which was the perfect way to start.

I asked them one question: “As a General Education teacher, how have you adjusted your teaching style to accommodate students with exceptionalities…or have you?”

Mr. Newman responded, “I think I’ve became much more conscious of trying to accommodate with deadlines, with seating arrangements, and with presentation skills, depending on the exceptionality. I also think that there are lots of people with exceptionalities or who don’t have exceptionalities. This is probably the challenge of a General Education teacher, why we need to be conscious and careful. It’s very difficult because we don’t want to assume that some people have exceptionalities and so you try to treat them the same.”

To the same question, Ms. Walker answered. “I don’t think I have [adjusted my teaching style] because I’ve always included them, even in my student teaching. I guess I’ve had the opportunity to be in the classroom with people with disabilities. So since the beginning I’ve worked with them. There was never a time I had to adjust my style because they have always been with me.  I’ve always taught at the levels teaching people with disabilities. So I think I’m lucky that I haven’t needed to adjust my style and I think that my style is based on that I’m a nurturer. I tend to have an air of compassion but a tough love.”

Finally, Mr. Allen said, “I have, but infrequently. I don’t have very many students with exceptionalities. Last year was my biggest test. I had one person with exceptionalities. I’ve been here 18 years … and along comes a student who didn’t learn the way other students do. And I was challenged because I had assumptions about what it would mean for the program and what it would mean for him. His ability to participate completely changed my life. I was so impressed with him, the way he worked, keeping up his side of the bargain. I was happy to learn from him.”

Reflecting on the interview I feel really good about it. It is amazing to see the kinds of answers you get from teachers. It shows that when you look at a student with exceptionalities, you see beyond that ability. It is not about “I can’t.”

Interviews About Disabilities

Lauren Jeanne Miller is a senior at Evanston Township High School. For her Senior Studies project she will interview people in Evanston. Senior Studies is a class that combines English, history, and community service. People with “”exceptionalities”” are people with disabilities who persevere in what they love. Through this project, Lauren hopes to compare and contrast people’s stories and to empower the people who have not had relationships with people with exceptionalities, showing why giving support to people with exceptionalities is important to society.