Kids laugh. Pencils move. Hands rustle through supplies. There is a lot of noise, but it is just the type of noise that Alison Buzalski loves to hear. Her first grade class at Claypool Elementary is actively engaged as they use markers to draw different strategies for solving a math problem.
Allison Buzalski is the first-ever Grace College undergrad graduate of the Special Education Intense Intervention Program through Grace Online. She pursued this degree while completing her undergrad work, in order to further equip herself with a special education licensure to help students with significant disabilities.
Equipping for Service
Buzalski has had a heart for service for a long time. As an undergraduate student at Grace, she spent her summers working at a summer camp for high schoolers with more significant disabilities.
“Throughout college, I became more and more passionate about special education,” Buzalski reflects. “Dr. Bremer approached me to talk about starting the intense intervention program, and it sounded like a great way to deepen my knowledge of teaching while moving towards the area of education that I am most passionate about — being able to service all types of students in my classroom.”
Buzalski currently teaches in the general education setting, but the licensure in intense intervention has already proven useful in her current position.
“This program has affected the way that I run my classroom and meet the needs of all of my students. I have been able to support the other first grade teachers on my team with questions about their students receiving special education services and offer them great resources and tools that I learned. I also have the knowledge to support the students with disabilities in my classroom in a more effective way through offering them visual support, calming strategies and an overall neurodivergent friendly classroom.”
Considering all of the ways the license has helped thus far, Buzalski looks forward to the many doors it will open for her in the future.
For educators who are already working full time, it can be intimidating to pursue a degree. Grace’s program is fully online, which is helpful for those who need a program that can work around their full schedules. Buzalski understands the need for flexibility for teachers currently in the school systems.
“The online degree allows for more flexibility in my learning,” said Buzalski. “I was able to video chat and collaborate with educators all over Indiana which helped me to grow as a young educator to learn from their experiences and ideas.”
Although this component of the education program is entirely online, Buzalski felt an incredible amount of support from her professors at Grace.
“The Grace College education program has intentional, thoughtful, and encouraging professors who show up for you along your college career while still encouraging self-authorship in finding your place as a teacher. I had great professors walk alongside me and offer me support and grace as we were all navigating and learning the ropes of a new program,” said Buzalski. And even when she was feeling overwhelmed with the workload, or needed support as she worked with challenging students, she knew that her professors were there to help guide her and encourage her.
Meeting a Need
Teaching is a rewarding job, but it does not come without its struggles. This degree is geared toward equipping educators with what they need to combat the hardships of teaching. Buzalski said, “One huge challenge that is recognizable all over America, in both special and general education, is the teacher and staff shortage. It is not just the certified teachers that buildings need, but all members of a team that it takes to run an effective school — paraprofessionals, bus drivers, lunch staff, substitutes, etc. It takes a village to support students, and the lack of staff affects everyone in the building.”
Teachers who have pursued a special education licensure are in great demand across the country, especially in teaching students with significant disabilities. The intense intervention graduate special education online program allows educators and future educators to add the exceptional needs: intense intervention license through the Indiana Department of Education. The 15-hour program is fully online, giving students the ability to pursue completion while still teaching or finishing undergraduate courses.
“There is always a long list of challenges that students and educators face on a regular basis that could be discussed at length for days, but no matter the challenge you see ahead, it is imperative to focus on what is best for your students, advocate for their learning, and work to build relationships with each student. It is easy to get bogged down by discouraging laws, a general lack of respect for education, and a long list of expectations for teachers, but remembering your ‘why’ keeps you focused on what truly matters about being an educator — the students, their wellbeing, and their learning.
Dr. Cheryl Bremer, founder and director of the Special Education Intense Intervention Program, describes it as a five-course sequence designed to equip prospective and practicing special education teachers to meet the needs of students with significant disabilities.
“Learning from leading experts in the field, applying best practices in classrooms, and developing leadership skills are all part of what makes this online program a perfect choice for those wanting to add an intense intervention to their licensure,” Bremer adds.
If you are a current teacher with a special pull at your heart to reach students with significant disabilities, autism, and communication disorders, the Special Education Intense Intervention Program may be a great fit for you!