Special Ed brings new additions to the department


Skylar McWilliams

Helping Hands: Instructional Assistant Brendan Jacobi aids a student with his lab in a chemistry concepts class.

Hailey Cho and Sloane Shableman

As hallways flood with kids shoving past each other, dozens of eyes search desperately for a friend, or at the very least, an acquaintance. While the rest of the school may have an ‘every person for themselves’ mentality, many students in the Special Education department walk with a friend by their side. Whether their work is done behind the scenes or upfront, Instructional Assistants are an essential part of the Glenbrook South community and have recently been increasing in numbers.

Dr. Karen Eisenberg, an Instructional Assistant at South, says that her job includes working with students one-on-one and in group classrooms, as well as supervising lunch periods. Though she is a new addition to the school, she has been teaching in Special Education for almost 15 years. After spending this many years with kids who have special needs, Eisenberg wishes that more staff and students at South saw them for who they are.

“All students have the potential to learn, how they learn is just different,” Eisenberg said. “It may take a little longer for some students to learn, especially in high school being teenagers. Even if they have issues learning, they’re like every other teenager in the school. They have the same needs and just want to be accepted.”

Jesse Sisler, another Instructional Assistant in Special Education, explained that the increase in instructional aides was due to many department members retiring last year, as well as the increase in students at South. However, hiring new aides has served more purposes than simply adding extra assistance in the classroom, Sisler said.

“It’s nice to bring in new faces and learn from them professionally, as well as to continue to build the community you have,” Sisler explained. “You also get to know your students from a different perspective because they are meeting new people and might be opening up about new things.”

Sisler explained that by enabling everyone to learn from each other, the new aides have already brought their own thoughts and strategies to the Special Education Department. He believes that having new faces to interact with and bounce off ideas is always beneficial and that the new aides make a great addition to the department.

Senior Lauren White sees the effect the new aides have on not just the department members, but also on the students themselves. White has been helping in the Special Education classrooms as a peer mentor since second semester of her sophomore year. White agreed that when the students have an aide by their side to help them, it enhances their learning experience.

“It’s important in our society and in school in general that [kids with disabilities] get the same level of education and help that they need,” White said. “It’s really good when students can get that one-on-one attention [from an aide] because they often need that during class.”

White believes that students at South with disabilities have as the right and need to be in school just like other students and also have the ability to get the help they need to do so.

“A lot of people think that [Special education students] are put in the back of the school and that [they’re left alone] or that they aren’t that imporant to the school environment,” White said. “They are students just like the rest of us and they have  as much rights and a [presence] in the school environment as all of us.”

Senior Nicholas Kotsinis is very grateful for his aide, Kenneth Smith. Kotsinis explains how Smith helps him follow directions and makes class more fun by telling funny jokes. According to Kotsinis, Smith helps him overcome his fears at school and is one of his very good friends.

“I love spending time with Mr. Smith,” Kotsinis said. “He is very goofy, and sometimes he bosses me around, but I know he does that because he cares about me.”