BEd in Exceptional Students and Elementary Education (ESEE)

Ryllah Rae Rodrigues

“The field experiences helped prepare me for my own classroom by providing me with opportunities to have real classroom experiences with students in a variety of learning environments.”


Lānaʻi (born on Maui, moved to Lāna‘i in 6th grade)


School of Teacher Education - Elementary; Special Education

Related Degrees

  • BEd, Exceptional Students & Elementary Education

Where do you work?
I have acquired a special education teaching position at Pearl Harbor Elementary School for the 2023–24 academic year on Oʻahu where I will be teaching a total of five students within a fully self-contained (FSC) learning environment!

How did it feel to complete your associate’s degree while in high school?
Upon completing my Associate’s Degree in Liberal Arts before graduating high school, I felt nothing short of the feeling of accomplishment as well as relief knowing that through all of the perseverance it took to complete this academic achievement, I had saved myself the time of completing my prerequisites before starting college as well as saved my parents a generous amount of money since the courses I took to achieve my associate’s degree were provided by the University of Hawaiʻi Maui College Lānaʻi Outreach Center and paid for by the support of Pulama Lānaʻi.

Do you think high school students should be pursuing college courses/degrees while still in high school?
I truly believe that more high school students should partake in taking college courses within their high school career. I would encourage every high school student to take at least one college course that interests them before graduating high school because when the students immerse themselves within that one college course, it equips them with the necessary tools they need to be successful when they do graduate high school to pursue a higher education as well as it allows students to find their niche in what they would like to pursue in the future.

What do you think are the benefits of becoming a “young” teacher?
There are many benefits to becoming a “young” teacher; however, the biggest would have to be the ease of adapting to new and evolving teaching practices. Every day, there are tremendous discoveries in the way we teach ideas as well as concepts to our students, and being able to adapt to practicing these new strategies within the classroom will not only elevate our teaching practice as a whole, but it will also benefit the students directly as they are being exposed to differentiated styles of learning.

What made you decide to pursue a dual license in elementary and special education?
From an early age, I always knew that I wanted to become an educator so when it was time to apply to teaching programs across a variety of universities, I came across the College of Education’s SPED and Elementary Education dual-licensure program. When researching what this specific program entailed, I knew that this program was the right program for me because out of all of the teaching programs I had researched, there was no teaching program that offered the option for a dual-licensure degree following the program. When looking back, I went into this program with the intention of pursuing a career as a full-time Elementary General Education teacher with a license in Special Education (SPED). However, after recently completing this program, I have found a deep love for teaching within the Special Education realm which is shaping my current career path now!

Why did you choose to move to Oʻahu for your bachelor’s degree instead of choosing a distance learning program and staying on Lāna‘i?
I chose to move to Oʻahu to complete my bachelor’s degree because the ESEE program was offered only on Oʻahu, and I wanted to expand my horizons as well as broaden my experiences and connections with others that I would not necessarily have the benefit of receiving if I had completed a distance learning program on the island of Lānaʻi. In retrospect, I am so lucky that I had gotten the opportunity to move to Oʻahu as I am continuing to gather a wealth of knowledge to one day bring to the educational system on Lāna’i.

How did your field experiences in the ESEE program prepare you for your own classroom?
The field experiences helped prepare me for my own classroom by providing me with opportunities to have real classroom experiences with students in a variety of learning environments. Within this preparation program, I taught in a different classroom setting each semester within my two years in the program. With this method of student teaching, I feel that although the change is quick and the student teacher does not get to spend the entirety of the year with the same students, the major benefit is that the student teacher is surrounded by different learning environments and gets to meet a wealth of students. So, when the student teacher is ready to apply for their teaching career, they are well informed of the ideal placement that they will want to work in. Personally, my last two placements within my last semester of student teaching allowed me to grow my love for teaching SPED and although I had not gotten the chance to student teach in an FSC classroom, I got the experiences from my previous student teaching placements where I was able to be the most happy in selecting an FSC job.

Why is it important to have people from the community as teachers who stay in Hawaiʻi to teach after earning their degrees?
People from the community who become teachers should stay in Hawaiʻi because they personally understand the needs of the students within each of the different communities and can relate to the student population on a more personal level.

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