Special Educators Encourage Community to Understand Those with Disabilities

Jamie Waugh is an intervention specialist that teaches at Athens High School and has been an educator for the past six years. She began her career in accounting, but having a mother who suffered from an illness most of her life gave her a passion to serve special needs people.

“I love people, I love kids and I love making people happy,” she said. “I believe the right teacher has to be with the right kids and I am the right teacher for the kids I have. They make me want to come to school every day because I want them to learn and expand but also learn to be the person they want to be. My students are so precious to me and I want to prepare them for the big, bad world out there.”

Kalah Saunders is a mild to moderate special education major who is in her senior year. She student teaches special needs children at Nelsonville Middle School and loves every second of it.

“The best part about being a special educator is seeing the hard work and passion I put into making a difference in the lives of my students,” Saunders said.

Nirobia McKinney is a sophomore who worked at Aaran’s Home Health Services and dealt with people with varying mental disabilities. She said the hardest part about working with such students is they can’t really express their emotions. “It’s difficult to know what they’re wanting or feeling,” she said.

It’s important to try your best to tend to the needs of the person at all times, because not only are they suffering from this disability, you may never know what their home life is like. Often times in these situations, it is common for the child to be or feel neglected by their families. In this profession, it is important to remove yourself and your reservations and put your all into this person who is depending on you in some way, McKinney said.


Gabe, a sophomore, can play any song on the keyboard simply by ear. Dylan, also a sophomore, is a gaming expert and knows every country in the world and their capitals. Freshman Alexei not only gives out the coolest code names, but he loves Spanish so much he taught it to himself. Furthermore, students participated in the special Olympics and displayed their athletic abilities. There is so much talent here in Athens that many would not expect- a great deal of it comes just from Ms. Waugh’s class.

All the educators encourage others to be more sympathetic when it comes to dealing with people with disabilities. Waugh said we should create safe environments.

“You never know how the little things you do can affect this person. A simple high-five may not mean much to you, but it can really make their day. It’s important for stories like this to be told to bring awareness and educate those generations to come so that they may continue to be more accepting as the years come on.”

Click through a photo gallery of images from the Special Olympics held at Alexander High School on April 27.
Check out the locations featured in this story.

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