Michaela Reardon grew up outside of Boston, and attended the University of Massachusetts for her undergraduate degree in marketing. She worked in that field for a few years until feeling unfilled by the job.
After some time, and with encouragement from a friend, Michaela took a substitute teaching job and found her calling. Soon after, she moved to Washington, DC to teach in Fairfax County, Virginia. She attended Marymount University’s School of Education, and graduated with her master’s degree in Elementary Education and a certificate in Special Education in December, 2018.
Michaela hadn’t originally planned on becoming a special education teacher. Instead, her decision to make this change was inspired by a trip to Panama with Dr. Hauth to work at a special education school. In addition to Panama, she traveled to South Africa. Michaela valued learning about various school systems and cultures. Indeed, a highlight of Marymount’s education program is its ability to provide global experiences in the field.
Ultimately, Michaela’s interest in special education led to a student teaching position in Auckland, New Zealand, where she has been for the last four years. Currently she is an Outreach Teacher for a special education school, with a majority of her students having autism or other pervasive developmental delays.
As an Outreach Teacher, Michaela works with several schools and their respective students, teachers, and aides to adapt the curriculum to support their needs. They work in small groups, complemented by a support team. This type of collaboration makes teaching a more personal experience for her.
Michaela says that New Zealand is a great place to work, appreciating the comfortable work-life balance, wonderful colleagues and the beautiful country. She enjoys the culture of New Zealand and continually learns from her diverse student population. Her current students are Tongan, Samoan, Māori and Iranian. However, she mentioned that working in this nation has posed its challenges, noting that teaching resources are very limited and teacher knowledge of special education varies quite a bit.
Over the last few years, Michaela has become interested in streaming performance-based class placement. This method of teaching helps students better connect with their peers and teachers to receive the help they need to achieve their own personal goals. Unfortunately, New Zealand does not have the resources and expertise to support students to thrive in inclusion classrooms. While the country’s education system has seen some improvement, there is still a lot of work to do to gain full inclusion for students with special needs.
As Michaela reflected on her time at Marymount she said, “Take advantage of every opportunity Marymount gives you – you never know where it may take you!”