"As I began to place expectations for learning on my students
and seeing them meet those, I was hooked... "
No two students learn in the same way, especially not in special education. Nobody knows this better than OATECA co-founder Sheryl Hazelbaker. In her 32 years of experience as a special education teacher, facilitator, and assistant director, she has witnessed firsthand the need for a service that can provide tools and strategies for assessing and addressing the individual needs of each student with a disability.
Hazelbaker did not start out teaching special education, but instead began her career as a physical education teacher. When she began to teach a separate P.E. class for students with disabilities, she found her calling.
“I fell in love with these students,” Hazelbaker says, “they brought me such joy that I made a career change.”
She quickly realized, however, the challenges of teaching those with significant disabilities. From the outset, she discovered that her 10 high school students were on 10 entirely different levels of learning and cognition. Lumping them all together ignored their individual needs, and she was not provided with tools to assess them or personalize their curriculums.
“As I began to place expectations for learning on my students and seeing them meet those, and in some cases even exceed my expectations, I was ‘hooked’ on seeing the light bulb of learning shine brightly for every one of my students,” Sheryl says.
The challenges Sheryl encountered, combined with this early encouragement, drove her to create tools and strategies for individualizing the learning experiences of students with disabilities while keeping expectations high.
“No general education teacher would be placed into a classroom of students and told to teach them with no tools to do so,” says Sheryl. The education of students with disabilities should work the same way.
"Students with severe disabilities need WAY MORE
intervention to reach their full potential!"
Since long before becoming a co-founder of OATECA, Tiffany Massie has had a passion for helping others. Her 20 years of experience in special education have given her unique insights into what students with disabilities need, as well as what schools and administrations need in order to function effectively.
Tiffany initially studied to work in Speech-Language Pathology (SLP), which involves helping people with speech disorders, communication barriers, and other issues. After earning a degree in SLP from the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma, she worked in the field for 3 years before coming to an important realization: students with severe disabilities she saw were not getting the language help they needed. This inspired her to move into the special education classroom.
Because of her training in speech and language disorders, Tiffany transitioned into her special education career equipped with special knowledge that would allow her to give more attention to the language needs of the students who need it most. “My speech pathology background enabled me to submerge my students in a language-rich environment all day every day!” says Tiffany.
She spent two years working with the Oklahoma Assistive Technology Center as an Assistive Technology Curriculum Specialist.
Although teaching students with disabilities can be hard, Tiffany uses her knowledge and empathy to help her students shine and succeed. Because she understands the challenges of special education, she brings valuable insight that allows OATECA to address the specific needs of teachers and students.
163 FUNCTIONAL SKILLS
82 Cognitive Skills
Focus on academic skills covering multiple levels of reading, math and writing abilities.
48 Self Help Skills
Focus on basic skills that increase the ability for students to become proficient at taking care of their own everyday needs.
33 Job Training Skills
Focus on basic daily living abilities to the skills required to successfully work, live and independently succeed in the future.