[caption id=”attachment_3844” align=”aligncenter” width=”508”] At the 2013 OACS Toast and Roast celebration, Mary Guldemond reflected on her work as Special Education Consultant and Teacher. She was also recognized at this September’s Special Education Conference in Oakville.[/caption]
Recently retired OACS Special Education Consultant, Mary Guldemond, says that she experienced some of her best moments in her career while conversing with anxious students who struggled with reading. She remembers telling these children that it was OK to find reading hard: “You have brown eyes and I have blue ones,” she’d say, “but God made each of us— I may not be able to help you become the best reader, no need, but I can help you get much better.”
Guldemond has long recognized the importance of reminding students that they are gifted and capable individuals, and not somehow deficient or strange because they learn differently than others. She says she is deeply grateful for the chances she’s had to give children encouragement, when they were at their most troubled and defeated.
As somebody who chose to retire gradually from her role as Special Education Teacher and Consultant, Guldemond has had time to slow down and reflect on years that she describes as “easily the best” and “most rewarding” in her career.
“Much has changed in the five decades since I began teaching in OACS schools,” she says. “We have become much more aware of how children learn differently.”
Today, the role of resource teacher isn’t just about helping students improve their literacy and numeracy skills, it is more complex, says Guldemond. Now, the job is about meeting the needs of uniquely created individuals and providing them with differentiated instruction, learning expectations and learning strategies.
Not only does that approach to special education help students learn better, it has cut through many of our misconceptions about challenging student behaviour, she says.
“At one time, misbehaviour was considered to be a character flaw, or the result of bad parenting, and the treatment was strict discipline meted out by the school office. Now, we are better at understanding that the challenging behaviours of these kids are often rooted in confusion and anxiety, in lagging cognitive skills, in learning disabilities,” says Guldemond.
Although each child is different, it’s become clear to her that no child ever wants to feel “dumb”, or “bad”, or “lazy”. No matter what their attitude is on the surface, children don’t stop caring. They all want to learn. And there is much we can do to help them learn, she says.
Guldemond spent a significant portion of her career doing just that. She accepted her first special education teaching job in 1982, after ten+ years of teaching in various elementary and high schools throughout Ontario. Between 1989 and 2010, she served as Special Education Coordinator and VP for Curriculum at Calvin Christian School in Hamilton. In 1996 she was appointed to the role of Master Teacher for the OACS, a position which transitioned to OACS Special Education Consultant. On September 16 2013, her 18 years of service were honored at the OACS Special Education Conference in Oakville.
“I have loved my work with resource teachers and with schools these past 18 years,” says Guldemond. “I feel deep gratitude to God for the opportunities He has given me to work with so many wonderful, dedicated professionals.”
Guldemond’s commitment to inclusive Christian education has led her down a winding and rewarding career path, punctuated by “amazing opportunities for personal growth.”
Those experiences have taught her much, she says. And, one of the lessons she learned can be summarized quite simply:
“I’ve learned that Special education is not really all that special,” she says. “It’s just good education.”
To read Mary’s “Farewell to OACS Consulting” speech, visit the edified EHE Special ed group on the eCurriculum Site!