BELTSVILLE – When Bernadette Garcia transitioned from a classroom teacher to an early childhood special educator and itinerant teacher, she thought she would miss the classroom atmosphere.
Instead, she found her new role gave her a chance to make a bigger difference in students’ lives.
“I really love it because now I have more kids. I’m affecting kids in the community, not only in one school, but kids everywhere,” she said. “I just love it. I just love it,”
Garcia is a special educator based out of Frances Fuchs Early Childhood Center, but she doesn’t spend most of her days inside the walls of the Beltsville school, as she travels around from school to school to assist special education students in their neighborhood classrooms.
“I travel to different schools to serve the students with special needs in their neighborhood schools and consult with teachers to provide them with strategies on how they can help the special education students in their classroom,” Garcia said.
In doing this work, Garcia found she was able to combine her two passions – helping children and guiding teachers on how to help children. And those two passions grew out of interesting place.
Back in the Philippines, Garcia was a part of the corporate world, but she was unhappy with her job and felt education calling her. She calls education and helping people her niche.
“When I see these special needs children, it just touched me and I felt like I needed to be there. I needed to serve them,” she said. “I can’t believe that it has been 10 years, I’m just enjoying it so much.”
There are a lot of duties attached to being a special educator, Garcia said. She often pulls children aside for one-on-one instruction or helps them during regular lessons, but she often has many more tasks for each child. She does case managements, develops individualized educational plans (IEPs), writes educational reports and collaborates with school teams to monitor special education student progress.
On top of that, she holds conference with teachers and parents. And all of that is for all eight schools in her purview.
“I try to manage my schedule everyday with all my other jobs, because I am also very active in the national board certification program,” Garcia said, who is a teacher mentor in the national board program.
Garcia jokes that, despite being a 10-month employee, she works 12 months just to make sure to attend to all her responsibilities. For National Board that includes curriculum writing and even grant writing.
“It’s a lot of work but I enjoy it,” she said. “I’m so used to multitasking. I’m bored when I’m not doing anything.”