Education Graduates Enjoying Life as Special Education Teachers

Lebanon Valley College education graduates Emily Miller '17 and Chelsea Bear '18 talk about their careers as special education teachers.

A graduate of the Lebanon School District, Emily Miller ’17 couldn’t imagine beginning her teaching career anywhere else. Now in her third year as the 6–8th-grade life skills support teacher at Lebanon Middle School, Miller values her connection with her students and how she can set them up for success later in life.

“My students are role models for how we should treat others,” said Miller. “I think they teach me more each day then I could ever teach them. That being said, I do hope my impact on them has been positive and useful. The skills I work on can provide them with the potential for independent living, a career, and friends—all critical areas. I feel incredibly blessed to have a job that allows me to have such a profound impact on others’ lives.”

Chelsea Bear ’18, who graduated with her degree in early childhood and special education a year after Miller, works as the 6–8th-grade learning support teacher at Cocalico Middle School and agrees that her students are the best part of her job.

“My students are all unique and bring amazing qualities into the classroom and my life,” said Bear. “I want them to have a place where they feel welcomed and appreciated. My favorite thing about my students is the pride they show when they learn something new or do something that they were not previously very confident in doing.”

In addition to classroom lessons, Bear’s students run a coffee business at the school, which provides many opportunities to develop functional life skills. 

“The students learn how to bill customers, write checks, and keep a bank book,” said Bear. “We also go on community-based field trips where our students can spend their earned money and learn how to determine if they have enough money to make purchases, make the purchase, and receive the correct amount of change.”

Like Bear’s students, Miller’s run a Cedars Coffee Shop business, use a classroom economy system with banking and take community-based instruction trips. They also learn social and life skills through delivering staff mail, collecting the school’s recycling, and organizing monthly fundraisers.

Bear, who started her college career planning to be a math teacher, said her field placements that started her freshman year changed her plans. Today, she is taking graduate classes toward earning a master’s degree in special education.

“I realized that I wanted to change my major early on and that I wanted to work with diverse learners,” said Bear. “My third placement was in a special education classroom in Palmyra, and that experience confirmed that I wanted to be a special education teacher. Senior year, we spent a semester student teaching, which gave me the confidence I needed to be in charge of a classroom.”

Miller’s placements through her years at LVC included six buildings in four districts. She gained experience in a pair of kindergarten classes; second, third, and fourth-grade classes; and a fourth and fifth-grade supplemental learning support classroom.

“I think LVC excelled in helping me prepare for my career through its scaffolding in a variety of placements,” said Miller. “The amount of experience gained from observing and interacting with that many students, teachers, grade levels, curriculums, and environments can never be matched by lectures or textbooks.”

Miller is working toward her master’s degree in Teaching English as a Second Language and a certificate as an English as a Second Language Program Specialist. Her future includes pursuing a Supervisor of Special Education certificate and Ph.D. before moving into the special education law realm.