On March 11, 2021, the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa (UHM) and Hawaiʻi Department of Education (HIDOE) launched the Every Student Deserves Someone Special campaign website. A collaborative project, spearheaded by the UHM College of Education (COE) Department of Special Education (SPED), the campaign addresses the ongoing challenge of special education teacher recruitment and retention in Hawaiʻi.
Much like the widely popular Be a Hero. Be a Teacher recruitment initiative, the goal of Someone Special is to increase the number of students pursuing a teaching degree or certificate through the UH System. In this case, the campaign specifically promotes SPED programs while helping to destigmatize special education and foster support for individuals with disabilities.
COE SPED Recruitment Specialist and Campaign Lead Janet Kim said, “This campaign allows for us to change the narrative around special education and students with disabilities in Hawaiʻi. As a former special education teacher, myself, I feel like this is our opportunity to showcase the real passion and beauty of what we do and who we serve.”
Filled with practical step-by-step information about SPED programs and the teaching profession, as well as inspirational stories and testimonials from current teachers, the website also highlights a group of inaugural SPEDucator Project fellows, called SPEDucators. Made up of 20 HIDOE special education teachers selected for their passion, ingenuity, and excellence in their field, the fellows have been convening twice a month since November 2020.
“There’s no script, no one being told what to say and what not to say,” explained Kim. “The goal is to shed light on the realities of what truly makes special education special. We’re able to do this because of these 20 incredible SPEDucators who represent the wide scope and breadth of what special education looks like across Hawaiʻi. Our hope is that, through this work, we will find more individuals who are passionate and committed to making a real difference in the lives of students with disabilities.”
It’s not an easy job, but it may be the most rewarding job in the world. It’s a profession where heartfelt connections are made, small successes can change lives, and no two days are ever the same. As a Special Education Teacher, your patience, compassion, and creativity turn everyday learning into powerful moments of joy, independence and self-confidence. Every child needs a champion – someone who believes in them, treats them as equal, and helps them accomplish what others think is impossible. It’s a profession that takes a special someone. Could that someone be you? (someonespecialforstudents.com)