Easterseals teacher recognized as an exceptional educator at the White House

Rockford’s Easterseals Autism Therapeutic School and Center teacher Stephen Szabo was recognized as an “exceptional educator” and invited by President Obama to the White House last week to participate in an event honoring the 2016 National Teacher of the Year and other great educators from across the country — like him! Here is Mr. Szabo with a guest post about the honor.


Stephen Szabo at the White House last week.

by Stephen Szabo

I never would have thought in my entire teaching career that I would be nominated for National Teacher of the Year and be invited to go to the White House to meet other outstanding teachers nominated for the award. What a great honor to have the opportunity to be celebrated as a Great Educator of the United States at the White House among hundreds of other educators. Just being in the same room in the White House with such great teachers as well as the President of the United States is an unforgettable moment in my life.

I have been working at Easterseals Therapeutic School and Center for Autism in Rockford Illinois for almost four years. When I finished my college education, several teachers in Illinois were getting laid off, or were unable to get a job. Before taking a job at Easterseals Therapeutic School and Center for Autism, I was subbing in school districts in the Northern Illinois region, and working in retail, which was not fulfilling for me. I wanted to be a teacher.

Nearby regional offices of education were not hiring.  Then, I happened to look on a CraigsList job posting, and I found that Easterseals was hiring! I had never worked in the special education field, but I was called in for an interview.

Easterseals Therapeutic School and Center for Autism hired me as a paraprofessional. Working with students who have disabilities expanded my skills and my understanding, and eventually I went back to school to get proper certification to teach students with special education needs.

My career as a teacher at Easterseals has given me the chance to be a teacher in a unique setting. The classrooms I teach in are ever-changing due to the needs of the students. I have received a great amount of training from colleagues, and their mentoring guided me in the right direction as a teacher, molding me into the teacher I am today.

Easterseals gave me the opportunity to work in a school environment when no other place had even called me in for an interview. Educating students is my passion, and I cannot thank Easterseals, my administrators, and all the support staff enough for giving me the opportunity to do what I love to do.


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