Asking graduate students Savannah Stewart and Anthony Washington to nail down what a typical day is like for them at the UW Haring Center’s school, the Experimental Education Unit (EEU), might be the one thing that have not been asked to do until now.
“You get to do everything and that is a cool opportunity,” said Stewart, who is in her first year of the two-year UW College of Education teaching Master of Education program. “You are able to work with kids in so many different ways: I could be leading small or large groups, doing one-on-one teaching with a student, working on social skills, or teaching art.”
The EEU has five graduate students on staff. These students are taking classes full time at the University of Washington as well as teaching in the EEU kindergarten, preschool and infant toddler program classrooms. Washington, in his second year of the UW graduate program, is used to working as an assistant in special education classrooms. However, his experience at the EEU has been different overall, where he has had the opportunity to observe the practices he’s learning about in his courses put into use by teachers and staff, and to try them out with coaching and guidance from his mentor teacher.
Both Washington and Stewart have experience in the education field before joining the graduate student program. Stewart is in her fourth year at the EEU. She had worked previously as an instructional assistant.
A central tenant to the UW Haring Center’s commitment to inclusion is to recognize and reinforce that everyone has the ability to contribute to their classroom community. At the EEU, this tenant extends beyond each classroom’s students and their families to our teaching staff.
Staff are encouraged to explore better ways to help children learn, and collect data to change practice and monitor progress. Washington is hoping to research how to break down teacher apprehensions to curriculum when teaching specific lessons related to race.
“I’ve written lesson plans that teachers liked but they will sometimes say ‘but I’m a white woman or an Asian American and I don’t think that I can teach this lesson,’” he said. “I want to create a universal language to empower teachers and recognize that your perspective is as valuable as my perspective if we have the same goal.”
Washington plans to continue his education and get his Ph.D. so he can affect education at a curriculum level. Both Washington and Stewart expect to continue their careers in special education, and both are fueled by the passion to increase accessibility of lessons and activities to all children.
“There are so many things that need to be modified and it’s challenging when you have kids that are so different and have varying levels of skill in different areas,” Stewart said. “I’ve been working to do more structured lesson planning and being prepared to present something so that every child can meaningfully connect with it.