[ Teaching & Learning ]

Remembering your ‘Why’

A portrait photograph of Laura Rosner in a black jacket (who is a member of the East Hampton Teachers Association and a co-teacher in an integrated first grade classroom) smiling and sitting with her two students (one wearing a green jacket and the other a red sweatshirt) discussing classwork
christie nelson
Laura Rosner, a member of the East Hampton Teachers Association, is a co-teacher in an integrated first grade classroom. After a rare eye disease left her legally blind as a youngster, Rosner became a special education teacher.
My two sisters and I grew up on the East End of Long Island in a small, close-knit community. We went to school with our friends and neighbors and knew most of our teachers both inside and outside the classroom. When I was diagnosed with a rare, blinding eye disease in fifth grade, it was not a secret.

After numerous appointments with eye doctors across Long Island and a visit with a New York City specialist, my parents learned that I had Stargardt’s Disease, a juvenile form of macular degeneration. The diagnosis was difficult to understand as the doctors explained that little was known about the incurable condition.

Ultimately, my blinding eye condition inspired my “why” for teaching.

As a student, I faced many obstacles that I needed to overcome. These challenges changed in nature as I progressed from middle school to high school and then undergraduate to graduate programs — but they all, in conjunction with the support of my family, helped me grow into the independent, educated, empathetic teacher I am today. As a student with a disability, I saw firsthand how imperative it is for teachers to understand learners with diverse needs.

I started my career in education through the Teaching Fellows program at PS 212 in Jackson Heights, Queens, as a special education teacher in a special class setting. I worked with a variety of different learners with varying abilities and needs. For the last 13 years, I’ve been back on Long Island teaching in an integrated co-teaching setting. My own personal and unique experiences help me to understand how essential it is to ensure that all students get the support and education they need.

Every student and every learner is different and we need to give them what they need to be successful, whether it’s a large-print book, or a special cushion, or a different kind of writing paper.

Our students in special education also need role models and encouragement to believe in themselves. As a student with a disability, I came to realize the importance of having teachers who are compassionate and understanding but still have high expectations. That’s why I became a special education teacher. Oftentimes, people with disabilities think they can’t do certain things.

I now have a family of my own and am a mom of two young boys. They keep me busy and full of laughter. I hope that my life experiences help them learn the importance of being empathetic and kind toward others. The support of my husband, sisters and parents have helped me continually accomplish any goal I set for myself, whether achieving National Board Certification or mentoring new teachers.

My personal journey, the great need for qualified special educators, the success of my students and much, much more contribute to my “why.”

It is my hope that my students with disabilities will continue to see themselves in me and recognize that despite their obstacles and challenges, they, too, can achieve whatever goals they set for their future.

Share icon

What’s your why?

Countless talking heads outside the classroom have a lot to say. We want to hear from you. Why did you choose the teaching profession — and why do you stay? Send submissions up to 450 words, along with a photo, to united@nysut.org.