Brilliance in Special Needs Education: How These Four Teachers Change Lives

22 Jan 2016 | TaylorCampbell

Featured image of Inés Bulacio with fellow teachers by Gerardo Dell Oro from clarin.com. In special needs education, innovation and non traditional teaching methods hold an important place. These four Global Teacher Prize 2016 Top 50 Finalists have taken it upon themselves to champion educational access for children with  barriers to traditional learning. Helping children recover from trauma, leveraging dyslexia as an asset, and triumphing over serious brain injuries is all in a day’s work for these inspiring educators from Argentina, Mexico, Palestine, and Greece.

1. Inés Bulacio - Argentina

Inés is celebrated as a 2016 Global Teacher Prize Top 50 Finalist by TelefeNoticias. Inés is not a typical classroom teacher — instead, she teaches students in a Buenos Aires hospital and in their homes if they have illnesses that make schoolgoing impractical. Inés has developed an innovative audiovisual communication project in which the students produce animated shorts and educational radio programs. Children and adolescents act out lessons, becoming proficient in multimedia production processes while developing their creative capacities and overcoming their isolation with the help of ICT. The students also disseminate information regarding the special care required for treating their conditions. In this way the student-patients become active participants in their own learning process, and their parents, doctors and the entire hospital community as well the Home School are involved as well. Each audiovisual work is then distributed via social networks, at meetings in the hospital, medical and educational congresses, workshops, festivals and book fairs, and several productions have won prizes. Inés has shared her approach with other teachers of hospital-based and home-based students across Argentina, making them aware of the value of using ICT in this context and training them in the technical steps of creating audiovisual productions.

2. Elisa Guerra Cruz - Mexico

Elisa explaining to other educators a special method of teaching children to read. Elisa has been working with brain injured children at The Institutes for the Achievement of Human Potential for over fifteen years as a volunteer. She was never interested in becoming a teacher, though, until she saw the effect that school was having on her son. She was worried that it would destroy his individuality and love of learning. Therefore, twelve years ago, she borrowed money, sold her car, and opened a preschool with 17 children, including her own. She studied for her teaching degree at home, eventually ranking first in the National Teachers Examination. Her school, Colegio Valle de Filadelfia, now covers primary and secondary school students as well. It promotes physical excellence as well as academic achievement. All students play the violin, learn three languages and take part in an annual triathlon. 85% of its graduates get admitted to the two best high schools in the state. Due to its success, five franchises have been opened in Mexico and two are about to start in Costa Rica and Brazil.

3. Hanan Alhroub - Palestine

معلمة فلسطينية ضمن افضل 50 معلم في العالم Posted by ‎تلفزيون فلسطين Palestine tv‎ on Saturday, December 12, 2015
Hanan featured on Palestine TV following the Top 50 Finalists announcement. Hanan grew up in the Bethlehem Palestinian refugee camp. One day, coming home from school, her husband and children witnessed a shooting incident involving Israeli troops. It took her family several years to overcome the devastating psychological impact that this experience had on her children’s behaviour and their educational development. Having found that her children’s teachers did not deal with these challenges in an adequate manner, she decided to become a primary school teacher herself. Her goal was to lend a helping hand to children who have been exposed to this kind of violence and therefore need special care in their first years at school. Hanan strives to provide peace in the classroom coupled with attention to individual children’s needs. She has developed a special teaching approach that she has shared in her book “We Play and Learn”. ‎‎To counter the high level of violence prevalent in and around Palestinian schools, she creates a relationship of trust and affection through honesty and respect for her students. Her methodology puts a special focus on group work, literacy and rewarding desirable behaviour. Her key message for students and teachers alike is that the Palestinian people can reclaim their country through education and learning.

4. Aggeliki Pappa - Greece

Aggeliki speaks about the reading brain and dyslexia. Aggeliki specialises in teaching English as a Foreign Language to Greek students with dyslexia and learning differences. As an EFL teacher, she recognised that there were no methods or resources available specifically for helping students with dyslexia who wanted to learn English. If a child struggled to read and write in their native language, what hope would they have with English? She resolved to fix the problem, and after extensive research developed a whole system to teach EFL with dyslexia called ‘I Love Dyslexia’. Because no teaching job existed for this specialisation, she set up her own organisation. Its afternoon classes offer holistic EFL and life skills learning to students of all ages who grapple with dyslexia and learning differences. Aggeliki’s approach is based on brain science and consists of a synthesis of smart visuals, mind maps, funny mnemonics and games to learn EFL skills in fresh and unconventional ways. It also includes socialising with native speakers, reflection on current affairs, drama, gardening and the use of technology. Her students’ pass rate in international EFL certificates is 100%. Students also report a significant rise in general school performance and emotional satisfaction, often after years of frustration. Aggeliki has taught around 800 students with special educational needs and trained about 1,500 EFL teachers at seminars run in conjunction with the Ministry of Education. Thank you, teachers, for your valuable work with special needs students! Please share this post to inspire others.