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Equity and Excellence in Special Education!

Hi! My name is Susan Wierzbowski! Teaching in New York City has been a life-long dream of mine. I grew up in a family of teachers, and from a very young age, I knew that there was no other job for me. Growing up in a small suburb of Columbus, Ohio, I craved the culture, upbeat lifestyle and energy that this big city exuberates. Prior to entering college, during a summer mission trip to Belize where I worked with children in neighboring villages, my passion for working with children was solidified as the joy they provided me was unlike any other experience. Even though I had found myself in an entirely different part of the world, the unique lives and smiles of the children in Belize were printed on my heart forever. Those children drive my passion and desire to be the best teacher that I can be to this day.

As I entered college at Bowling Green State University (BGSU) in Ohio, I was set on pursuing my degree in Early Childhood Education. As I started my college career, I was informed of a new program beginning at BGSU entitled Inclusive Early Childhood Education. Choosing to pursue this degree meant that I would be completing a dual certification program, gaining licensure in both general and special education. Prior to my discovery of this program, I had never thought of pursuing a career in special education. Little did I know this dual licensure program would change the course of my life. To complete this dual certification program, I was required to spend two full years student teaching. Knowing that I had to complete these two years, I was interested in finding two very different experiences to challenge myself as an educator. In doing so, I applied and was accepted to a Student Teaching program in Houston, Texas. My Junior year of college I packed as much as I could cram into my small white Toyota, and drove my life out to Texas with my parents. During my months in Texas, I taught in an inclusive, bilingual Pre-K classroom setting at Hinojosa Pre-K Center. This teaching experience provided a culture shock, and put me out of my comfort zone in the most beautiful way possible. I was working and teaching with people and children that had life experiences completely different than my own. This inner-city teaching only fueled my dreams of New York City even more.

After teaching in Houston, Texas I completed my final year of student teaching in Toledo, Ohio and graduated with my Inclusive Early Childhood degree as Summa Cum Laude. Then, the hunt for a teaching job in New York City began. I spent that summer after college driving back and forth between Ohio and New York searching for a teaching job that felt right. Then suddenly, my search ended when I was offered a position at Preschool of the Arts in Chelsea Manhattan. My teaching experience blossomed as I spent my first two years teaching at this Reggio inspired school. I learned an immense amount during my time at Preschool of the Arts and am forever grateful for the Reggio practices that time instilled upon my teaching.

After completing two full years teaching in Manhattan, I felt called to do something more. I began to crave a new challenge; I wanted to be a special education teacher. Again, I started my hunt for another school family to call home. While working on my Master’s Degree, I met Elizabeth DeAngelis (site coordinator at Z112), who recommended District 20. From the moment I met the powerful, passionate, and supportive school leaders in District 20, I knew I had found my new home.

I started my journey with District 20 this past Fall 2019 as a Special Education teacher in a 12:1:2 preschool setting at the 93rd street location. The welcoming, supportive, and positive District 20 environment at the 93rd street location has helped me grow and learn more than I ever thought possible over these past few months. Having support and encouragement in working to infuse my Reggio beliefs and practices with the goals and passions of students with exceptionalities has opened my eyes to endless possibilities. Collaborating with the special education team, including our speech therapist, occupational therapist, physical therapist, STEAM cluster teacher, and additional special education teacher, the students are given an opportunity to develop skills in all domains of learning, while working with numerous loving and caring professionals each day. This seamless collaboration and team effort provides all students with the supports they need to be successful. The growth and progress of each student is truly inspiring as they come to school every day ready to work, play, and learn.

The District 20 students, staff, and environment have enabled my joy and passion for teaching to continue to grow and flourish. Working as a Special Education teacher at the Z111 Pre-K Center in Brooklyn has been the biggest blessing. I am proud to call this Center my home.

Susan Wierzbowski- Teacher Z111

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