Natalie Armbruster, a 21-year-old student from Barboursville, West Virginia, said she’s always known she wanted to be a teacher.
“The women in my family have all been in the education system, and it was something that I was always around growing up. My grandmother was a kindergarten teacher, my mother is a speech-language pathologist, and my aunt is a school psychologist, all within the West Virginia education system. These women were great role models growing up, and they are part of the reason I decided to become a teacher.”
In high school, Armbruster said there were many students with exceptionalities. She said she started to notice there were certain things these students did that other students could not understand.
“I began to realize these students just made my heart happy and being around them made my entire day better. I felt these students were no different than I was, and in fact, they were often a better person than I. My senior year of high school, I formed a close relationship with a peer that always put a smile on my face. This peer taught me so much about how to be a kind, caring and fun person. They taught me the positive outlook on life and continuously taught me how to be a better friend,” Armbruster said. “During my senior year, I became more interested in learning how I could make a difference in exceptional students’ lives, which led me to add the endorsement in the multi-categorical education K-6 at Marshall.”
At Marshall, Armbruster said she credits the clinical experiences and the professors for her continued passion for the field of special education.
“There are many clinicals and classes we take to learn more about teaching exceptional students. One of the biggest reasons the special education programs are so successful is because of the professors. Most of these professors, if not all of them, have personal experiences in the classroom they are able to share in order to connect that information they are teaching to real-world classroom experiences. I learned just as much from these experiences because I was able to take what I was learning in class to the clinical experience and connect the two.”
As educators, Armbruster said the goal should be to reach every student and to make sure every student gets the instruction that is best in order for them to learn.
“Special education is the way that educators are able to reach every student in a way that best fits their needs. Special education allows more individualized instruction for exceptional students that need the extra help or for students that need challenged through their instruction,” Armbruster said. “There are no two students that learn the same way or at the same pace. Each student that comes through every classroom in our education system is different and that requires differentiation for their learning. Special education is a way to ensure students are getting the instruction they need, and it provides a way for educators to provide effective education for all students.”
Armbruster said she believes all West Virginia educators have been going above and beyond for their students. After graduating this month, she plans to grow her knowledge by pursuing a master’s degree in education with an emphasis in elementary math at Marshall.