By SANDRA McANANY | Coon Rapids, Minn.
Outstanding special education teachers who truly love the field can be almost impossible to find. Over the last few years, a couple of experienced teachers left the Norwalk-Ontario-Wilton School District and left a hole.
But when Mrs. Bohlen left the district last week, it left an empty canyon behind. She had 19 years of teaching experience at Brookwood, listened to parents and families, and truly went above and beyond for her students. When my son was in her learning disability class near the beginning of her career, she supported remediation for reading when it was not the norm at the time. I found a private tutor for the summer, the district paid for half the cost (thank you, Mr. Szepi), and Mrs. Bohlen communicated with the tutor at the end of the school year and tested throughout the summer on her own time and then in the fall and retested. She also used a specialized curriculum with my son that was recommended by Gundersen Lutheran. I advocated hard at times, and Mrs. Bohlen was always so professional and caring during IEP meetings.
The superintendent, principals and director of special education cannot just wave a magic wand and find another experienced, caring teacher like Mrs. Bohlen. When she left, she was handling a large caseload of children with emotional and behavioral needs in first through eighth grade. It may be helpful for each parent of a student she had to take a few minutes and really read his or her child’s IEP. Is it the correct level of support if there are substitutes or a less experienced teacher comes in? What else could their student use for support? How could their child get individual attention if needed? Any parent can request to have the IEP team reconvene to discuss any changes. It’s as simple as sending an email to Mrs. Springborn and Dr. Burhop (or the appropriate principal).
There are also other resources for parents who may have special education questions or concerns. Wisconsin Facets is a statewide organization to help parents and can be reached at (414) 374-4645. The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction has specialists for different areas and can be reached at (800) 441-4563.
Before she left, I did not really thank Mrs. Bohlen for the life-changing difference she made for my son. It has been rough being a teacher over the last eight years. Please also consider taking a moment to thank the teacher(s) who have made a difference for your child.