Recognizing Remarkable Contributions: Honoring Special Education Teachers in Central Texas

May 23, 2024
special education appreciation

The Baylor Center for Developmental Disabilities (BCDD) recently held an appreciation dinner to honor and recognize special educators' exceptional efforts and contributions in Central Texas. The event highlighted these educators' remarkable work to positively impact the lives of students with disabilities in our community. Principals in the region were asked to nominate one teacher or staff who has made a significant contribution to the support and service of students with disabilities. The celebration was held on Thursday, May 16, from 6 to 7:30 p.m. at the Mark & Paula Hurd Welcome Center.

“Special education teachers play a critical role in the educational success and flourishing of students with disabilities in schools,” said BCDD Director Kristen Padilla. “We appreciate the work of special educators in our local schools and are committed to supporting and encouraging them for their impact on children with disabilities and their families.”

The keynote speaker was Garret Anz, a graduate of Midway ISD. He shared about the pivotal role his special education teachers played in shaping his academic future. He expressed how his desire to follow in the footsteps of his older siblings and attend college was fueled by his teachers' unwavering support and encouragement. His determination, coupled with the relentless push from his family and teachers, led to his acceptance into ClemsonLIFE. The ClemsonLIFE program at Clemson University offers a collegiate experience that prepares young men and women with intellectual disability for competitive employment and independent living through a combination of academic coursework and career exploration. His mother, Susan, also spoke about the invaluable life lessons instilled by his teachers, inspiring him to persevere and pursue Garret’s dreams.

The BCDD was pleased to honor and commemorate the remarkable accomplishments of 60 special education teachers. These teachers have shown exceptional dedication to assisting children and families with disabilities. Their commitment and empathy have greatly benefited our community. This event was a way to express gratitude for the teachers’ unwavering dedication and the positive influence they have had on the lives of those they support.

Kelli Zander, a teacher from South Bosque Elementary, said, “The fellowship and food were great, but the special speaker, Garrett, and his mother were the stars! I know it was to honor us, and I so appreciate the recognition because we don’t always get it, or if we do, it is in passing and just a quick word or two. It was very nice to be recognized among peers. I loved that we heard from a family who has been helped by someone in our profession because that is why we do it. We want to help, and the reward is hearing about the student’s success, big or small. Thank you again for the experience, the reminder, and the encouragement of why we do what we do!”

Amber Newcomb, a teacher at Connally Junior High, shared her reflection on the celebration, “The event was a wonderful opportunity to connect with other special educators, both current and past colleagues. It was a joy to see familiar faces and meet new ones. The event also provided a comprehensive overview of Baylor's initiatives and opportunities, which was enlightening. I am grateful for the chance to participate in such a beneficial and enjoyable event.”

Jennifer Salazar, a teacher at Alta Vista Elementary, said, “The dinner was truly a blessing that filled my cup! The opportunity to meet other special education teachers and Baylor University employees was a unique opportunity for which I was grateful.”

The work of the BCDD focuses on research-based practices, programs, and policies aimed at ensuring the academic and social flourishing of children and youth with disabilities within their local schools. The Center’s objective is to equip and support educators, related service providers, and school leaders in embracing strong values and sound practices that facilitate learning and development for students with disabilities.