I never wanted to become a special education teacher.

Early in my college education at Azusa Pacific University, I remember hearing someone dismiss the teaching profession with the old saying, “Those who can’t do, teach.” I wasn’t going to be the person who “can’t,” so as I was narrowing my focus in my psychology major, I didn’t even consider becoming a teacher.

At the time, I was reasonably sure I wanted to be a marriage and family therapist.

But, like any good story, fate intervened.

It started with a Hawaiian shirt (sort of).

During my final semester, I took a class called “The Psychology of the Exceptional Child.” One of the first assignments the professor gave us was to observe a “special education” classroom in a local public school.

Because I had only attended private religious schools, I had no understanding of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), a federal law requiring that all students with disabilities have the option of public school education. Looking back, I realize that some of my private school classmates had disabilities, but because there wasn’t any attention drawn to the fact that they were getting extra help or extra time on their assignments, they slipped under my radar.