When I first started in education as a paraprofessional, I was drawn to our students with emotional and behavioral disorders (EBD) and Autism spectrum disorders (ASD). I quickly formed bonds with them and, through our relationship, could put out most fires during the day. As such, my colleagues called me “The Whisperer.” With any challenging behavior, they would be sure to call Richard in to help fix the problem.
I realized then, early on in my career, that relationships are the foundation of a quality education. I think I was first drawn to the Special Education Legislative Summit because it gives you the opportunity to quickly build those teacher-student relationships, but with your representatives.
Advocating at an event like the Special Education Legislative Summit tests your ability to show your sincerity, love, and dedication to exceptional children. It allows you to teach those who have not been in a classroom in years what it is like, praise them for the successes, and encourage them to continue to fight the injustices that are in our educational system.
We are exceptional educators from our hearts first. The Summit allows you to take your heart, wear it on your sleeve, and show just how special each and every student in America is. I want to show how each student deserves the right and access to a quality education, and how ALL students need to learn social and emotional literacy to become positive, contributing members of society.
Perhaps most of all, however, I am looking forward to the Summit because it will give me the opportunity to tell the great stories of my amazing students with EBD. How they wake up everyday with challenges most adults have and may never face, come to school, and excel socially, emotionally, and academically. I am excited to talk intimately with my representatives about how my students still don’t have full access to the general curriculum and the needs of my students as they relate to the nation.
I anticipate a great day on the Hill to engage others in my passion. I hope to see you all there!
Richard Williams is a special education teacher for students with emotional and behavioral disorders (EBD). Williams has worked in general education schools in self-contained EBD classrooms and two special education centers for students with severe EBD. He has a master’s in special education from Clark Atlanta University and is currently working towards a doctorate in special education from The George Washington University with a focus on students with EBD, transition plans, and preparations for post-secondary life. An active CEC member, Williams has been a Reality 101 blogger as well as a member of the Yes I Can and Diversity Committees. Outside of the classroom, he is a plant-based lifestyle and animal rights advocate who runs a blog of book reviews and current events. In his spare time, he loves to read and go on hikes with his dog.