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 Have Lessons; Will Travel

Itinerant teachers don't have their own classroom or even one school to work from, but that doesn't stop them from changing the lives of students.

As they travel from school to school, they're helping to make it possible for students with special needs to stay in their neighborhood school and in a mainstream classroom setting.

"They're important because they're fulfilling a need that our students have," said Russell Coronado, senior director of the South County Special Education Local Plan Area (SELPA). "If it wasn't for our itinerant staff, these students probably wouldn't be able to stay in their home schools or their home districts."

Keeping students in their neighborhood schools is especially important because they're able to stay with their friends and neighbors, said Amy Nangle, who teaches students with visual impairments in coastal North County.

"It's the most natural environment for them to go to school," she said.

Itinerant teachers' days often look very different from those of classroom teachers, but they still get plenty of time to work with students, often one-on-one. This can include teaching individualized lessons, providing resources and training, addressing glitches with equipment, ensuring the students are understanding lessons, and teaching students self-advocacy skills. They also take time to confer with classroom teachers and collaborate with other teacher specialists.

"It's never the same day twice," said Lauren Ingersoll, who teaches students with visual impairments for 10 sites in the South County SELPA. "It's a very unique job."

Three of SDCOE's four SELPAs have itinerant teachers. The North Coastal Consortium for Special Education has 19, the South County SELPA has six, the East County SELPA has five, and HOPE Infant Family Support has 23. Most of the itinerant teachers serve students who have visual or hearing impairments.

Many of our itinerant teachers have been working for SDCOE for 10 or 20 years.

Because the SELPAs cover such large regions, much of the itinerant teachers' work day is spent driving.

A big part of the job is making sure that students have access to the technology and devices they need to have the same access to curriculum as other students.
Classroom teachers aren't usually trained to understand the specific needs of students with vision or hearing loss.

"Otherwise, the kids can fall through the cracks," said Mary Brewer, who teaches students with hearing loss in East County. "Teachers may not realize how much is being lost. It's our job to educate them about how much is being lost."