ESEE Program Co-Coordinator & Reading Interventionist Instructor

Natalie holding up a wine glass with a charcuterie board on the table

"The dual certification makes our candidates marketable and highly sought after post-graduation. Therefore, my advice is that although the program requires concerted effort, it's also worth it; the time and effort will more than pay off when they graduate from the program."


Kane‘ohe, Hawai‘i


Special Education; School of Teacher Education - Elementary

Related Degrees

  • BEd, Exceptional Students & Elementary Education
  • PhD, Education: Exceptionalities

What is your current position?

I am an Instructor and Cohort Co-Coordinator in the Exceptional Students Elementary Education program where I teach early elementary literacy courses, supervise students at school sites, and coordinate the Response to Intervention (RTI) field course. The RTI field experience is a symbiotic partnership with schools; the candidates are placed at school sites to individually tutor early elementary students identified as at risk for reading difficulties. The candidates gain invaluable teaching experience using an evidence-based reading intervention while providing much-needed reading instruction to students who benefit from the one-to-one support. I also teach literacy courses and provide field supervision for the Reading Interventionist Program (RIP). This program provides in-service teachers with the knowledge and skills to implement targeted intensive reading interventions for students with reading challenges.

How did you first become interested in teaching?

My first interest in teaching began when I was in the first grade. I would host “classes” in my garage for the younger kids in my neighborhood, including making my own worksheets that I assigned as homework. Then, as a parent, I became interested in special education when my son, Shane, was diagnosed with dyslexia; I wanted to learn all that I could to support him. My interest in teaching was innate, but my passion for supporting students with learning disabilities developed from my personal experience as a parent.

What types of candidates do you hope/recommend to pursue the BEd ESEE program?

Teacher candidates who would be a good fit with the ESEE program truly enjoy children and supporting their development as young learners, including students with diverse learning profiles. The candidates who thrive in the program have a positive, can-do mindset and appreciate unique opportunities to learn from and with others. Typically, candidates in the program have a passion for wanting to make a difference in the lives of students because they were inspired by a former teacher, family member, or friend; this personal connection strengthens their commitment to be dedicated, compassionate, and effective teachers.

How does this program best support and prepare its students?

The ESEE classes are cotaught by two instructors, which allow students the opportunity to learn from different teaching philosophies and professional backgrounds. Candidates are able to leverage this experience when they teach in various school settings and work with multiple stakeholders in education. In addition, candidates are part of a cohort led by both a General Education and Special Education Cohort Coordinator; the co-coordinators offer dual perspectives and insight, which enhances the level of academic and social-emotional support candidates receive while in the program. We aim to create a sense of ʻohana within our cohort.

What do you love most about the program?

I love co-teaching and collaborating with other instructors; itʻs a synergistic process that allows us to leverage our knowledge and expertise to create unique curriculum for our students. I truly enjoy the collaboration and have learned so much from my co-teaching partners; it has enhanced my professional development and I value the friendships with my colleagues. In addition, the teaching partnerships provide authentic examples for teacher candidates, which help them to understand the benefits of co-teaching. Ideally, this enhanced understanding translates to candidates recognizing that teachers in the General and Special Education settings can best meet the needs of ALL students by working together.

What words of advice would you give to people looking to pursue the program/profession?

The ESEE program is considered a rigorous program because candidates earn a dual license in elementary AND special education. The dual certification makes our candidates marketable and highly sought after post-graduation. Therefore, my advice is that although the program requires concerted effort, it’s also worth it; the time and effort will more than pay off when they graduate from the program. Then, they could truly have one of THE MOST REWARDING careers!

Describe your own road to higher education.

My career as an educator encompasses both private and public school settings, including teaching elementary multi-language learners and students with learning differences. Most of my experience is in special education teaching early elementary students, and I was also a Curriculum Specialist, Middle School Dean, and K-8 Summer Program Director at a private school for students with language-based learning disabilities, including twice-exceptional students.

What do you like to do outside of education?

My passion for teaching students to read, especially students with reading difficulties and/or dyslexia, led me to my work with the Hawaiʻi branch of the International Dyslexia Association where I serve as President and the Fundraising Committee Chair. My other interests include dancing hula, traveling as much as I can, playing pickleball, and learning to play golf. Also, Iʻm a foodie and love spending time with family and friends checking out new restaurants!

Anything else you would like to share?
For new teacher graduates, I recommend teaching at a school that is a good fit with your personal and/or cultural beliefs. For example, you may have a passion for agriculture and may be interested in teaching at a school that has a school farm program. Teaching at a school that aligns with your teaching philosophy and/or personal passion will allow you to be more fully invested in the school community, which will make your teaching more meaningful and enable you to do your best work.

Learn about the BEd, Exceptional Students and Elementary Education Program and hear Dr. Haggerty share more about her experiences as a co-coordinator in this program:

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