Mardi Caminer spends most of her workday focused on soccer and special education. The 23-year-old Chicago native moved to Washington to work in a school system where she felt she could really put her skills to good use.
How did you become interested in special education?
I originally didn’t realize special education was a path that I could take. I [used to] work with students in my religious school, helping them learn Hebrew and catch up if they were chronically absent or if they just couldn’t really catch up in time.
I asked to work with the woman who did Hebrew tutoring. She would work with different students at different times and would pull them out from their regular class to catch up. And I would work with one or two students at a time, and I really liked it. She told me it was a career path.
What kinds of students do you work with?
I’m working with mostly third graders, although last year I worked with students ranging in age from 3 years old all the way to fifth grade. It was a lot and I liked it, but it’s much nicer being in a smaller environment.
I work with both reading and math curriculum. I do a lot of support in classrooms with students who aren’t necessarily at the same grade level and to engage them and bring things to their level. I also pull students out of the classroom to work on their
remediation skills such as basic reading skills when they’re supposed to be past that.
They’re very much included in the general population during specials and lunch.
How did you end up in D.C.?
I always wanted to work in the public schools. I believe in the public school system. [I went to Vanderbilt] but [the Nashville] public school system had a hiring freeze for general education teachers. Everyone always needs special education teachers but I felt if they didn’t have the budget for general education teachers [Nashville] might not be the best.
Most people talk positively about the D.C. public school system and I got an awesome job at an amazing school here. I really couldn’t turn it down.
What’s your classroom like? How many students do you have?
The way our school is organized is that we have a dual language program.
Our students spend half their day in Spanish. Although I’m conversationally [able to speak], I’m not fluent enough to want to teach in Spanish. So we have a bilingual special language teacher who I work closely with.
What do you do outside of work?
In addition to teaching, I coach [the school’s] soccer team. That’s a lot of fun. We practice twice a week and play a game once a week. So that takes up a significant chunk of my afternoon.
I was a competitive soccer player through high school but didn’t want to pursue it in college. [This] has been a really great way to get back on the field.
I’m also on the PTO, but when I’m not in my school, I love to go on walks and explore places.
What kind of misconceptions are there about special education?
I think when I tell someone I’m a special education teacher, they have this assumption of what my classroom looks like or what my students are like. I think a lot of people don’t understand that there’s a really big range when it comes to special education.
How I describe my students to my friends is that you wouldn’t know walking down the street that a student comes to see me. And by the time they’re in high school or college, my hope for them is that they’re totally independent.
Have a suggestion for a You Should Know profile? Candidates must be ages 21-40. Tell us what makes the person so interesting: [email protected] or tweet @SamScoopCooper.