Teacher Apprecation Week Special Education Stories: Renee Hardin

To celebrate Teacher Appreciation Week, the SJSU Lurie College of Education met with some of its students, alumni, and faculty from the Special Education department to learn more about their journeys into the field of special education – learn about Renee Hardin’s journey!

Hi, my name is Renee Hardin and I am a moderate-to-severe special education teacher with the Campbell Union High School District.  My story as to why I became a special educator essentially has to do with my sister. My sister is 28 years old now and when she was about 6 years old she started having issues with her vision.  We had a really hard time pinning why that was going on so we looked at cone rod dystrophy, retinitis pigmentosa, all these different vision disorders. Then seizure activities came into the picture, then learning disabilities and exacerbated behavioral issues.  She was losing mobility and we knew something really serious was going on but we didn’t know what. She went away for a 50 day assessment at California school for the blind, which is funny now since she was not accepted because she was a stinker at the time. But they actually were the ones who diagnosed her with batten disease or referred her to the neurologist that did.  Batten disease is a neurological degenerative disorder. Essentially, usually it takes eyesight first and then it’s seizures, behavior, learning and mobility and it’s kind of downhill until the life expectancy has been reached. There is no cure, nothing like that. My sister has the juvenile version and so growing up with that definitely gave me the passion and want to take care of her and do what I could do to take care of her.  As time went on, it started to translate into the Best Buddies program in my high school because I thought I’d be a part of that because my sister is a part of that. After that it spiraled into “okay I have a passion for this in general, just for caring for people with special needs and for people that just need an extra helping hand with things.” I started out with a lot of respite type stuff because I love just hanging out and getting to know them.  You learn so much more from them than I feel like I ever give back. My sister has ultimately been my inspiration for getting into the field. My mom always jokes that I have passions in 54 different places and this one took the cake. For me, it’s so rewarding being able to go into there and they have that respect with you and them having that respect with them. Just watching them grow and make progress where people didn’t think they were capable of, treating them with respect and dignity the way that they may not always be treated, and showing them that is something that’s here.  I think ultimately they got me down on their level now. It’s all about having fun, enjoying when we’re working, letting everything loose. If Ms. Hardin’s weirder, you can be even weirder than that. All of this is because of my sister.

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