Teacher of the month
Special ed teacher works to keep students in regular classrooms
Hillsboro High School special education teacher Charla Heddin works each day to reduce the amount of time students spend with her.
It isn’t that she doesn’t like her students, but it is preferable for students to spend as much time in a regular classroom as possible, she said. The ultimate goal is to help students transition out of special education entirely.
“It’s huge to be in a regular classroom,” HHS Principal Max Heinrichs said.
He said Heddin is a good teacher. However, she can’t specialize as much as regular classroom teachers. A math teacher can focus on math, and an English teacher can focus on English, but special education teachers have to have a broad enough skill set to teach math, English, and other subjects, he said.
“We help students with all of the subjects in the core curriculum,” Heddin said.
Each year, HHS transitions two to four students out of special education, Heddin said. Most are juniors and seniors.
Special education includes teaching skills and strategies that students can use to succeed in regular classes, such as good study habits. Heddin compared the difficulties a student might face without such tools to a physically handicapped student in physical education.
“If you had a student with no arms and no legs and asked them to climb a rope, it would be pretty difficult for them,” she said.
Nonetheless, special education students can go on to succeed in academic pursuits.
“Some of our greatest minds have been students who in their childhood were labeled special education students,” Heddin said.
Famed physicist Albert Einstein struggled in school, she said.
“He was misunderstood by his teachers because they didn’t understand the way he thought,” she added.
Heddin works to promote understanding as a two-way street. She wants to help students understand their teachers and teachers understand their students.
Her mother, Margo Busher of Larned, was her inspiration to become a special education teacher.
“My mom was a special education teacher for 30 years, so I followed in her footsteps,” Heddin said.
Heddin is in her third year of teaching at HHS, and her 12th year teaching overall. She earned bachelor’s degrees in psychology and special education and a master’s degree in emotional disturbance and behavior disorders from Emporia State University and a master’s degree in building administration from Pittsburg State University.
She and her husband, Dan, of rural Hesston, have three children: a son, Max; and two daughters, Veronica and Ruth. They are also in the process of adopting.