Featuring Allison (Diller) Lienert '09
Position: Special Education Teacher
School: Harpeth Valley Elementary School; Metropolitan Nashville Public
Location: Nashville, TN
Graduate School: Vanderbilt University
Graduate Program: Special Education- High Incidence Disabilities (Mild
Allison's graduate school experience
How did you connect with this job
What attracted you to this
What are the most gratifying
aspects of your job?
What has been/was your biggest
challenge as a first-year teacher?
How did your time at GCC prepare
you for the teaching field?
What advice would you give to a
current pre-service teacher in order to better prepare for his or her future
What job search tips would you
give to GCC students?
I was hired for the 2010-2011 school year to co-teach 4th grade in a
“model classroom.” I accepted this job, although it was not exactly what
I wanted, because I knew the school was highly rated, and has strong
support from the community. Throughout the school year, I had several
conversations with the instructional coach and the principal about my
interest in a special education position if there was an opening. At the
end of the school year, the lead special education teacher announced her
retirement, and the principal designated me to take her place!
I have a strong passion for students with special needs. I wanted to be
a special education teacher in a resource room because I would have the
chance to have my own classroom and a group of students that I would get
to work closely with on a regular basis. I felt like I could make a
bigger difference by working closely with a small group of students.
As many teachers do, I live for the “lightbulb” moments. That moment
when a child finally understands, shows mastery of a skill, or meets an
IEP goal is by far the most gratifying aspect of being a special
education teacher. When the child’s eyes light up, and he gets a big
smile on his face because he is so proud of himself, it makes me forget
about how tired I am, how much work I have to do, and all the stresses
of the day. In that “lightbulb” moment, I know I am doing what the Lord
called me to do. Another gratifying aspect of being a special education
teacher is having the opportunity to show children that they can be
successful. I find it is such a blessing to get to work with children
that have otherwise not experienced much success in their first few
years of school. I get to be the teacher that shows my students that
they can achieve, and I get to celebrate with them when they do. I love
being a cheerleader and believing in them until they learn to believe in
themselves. Finally, I have the opportunity to make learning really fun
for my students. Research shows that children with disabilities learn
best when they can experience the curriculum through hands-on learning.
I strive to make my classroom a fun place where the children enjoy
coming. My students ask me, “Do we get to come to your room today?” and
they can’t wait to see what they are going to be doing. I also have
other students ask me, “Are we ever going to get to come to your room?”
It makes me so happy to hear that the students look forward to being in
Being a first-year teacher is a challenge. Nothing can prepare you for
it. Student-teaching doesn’t bring you close to experiencing what
teaching is really like. My biggest challenge was learning the ways of
the school and the district. Every school runs differently, and every
administration has a unique set of expectations for their teachers. I
often felt like I was expected to know things without being told. I
asked a lot of questions, and sought the advice of a teacher that I
respected and knew I could trust.
Grove City gave me a solid foundation in the science and the art of
teaching. I had a series of talented professors who taught me how to
plan and implement effective lessons in the classroom. I still refer
back to my portfolios from Grove City to get ideas for lessons. They
also prepared me to view my students as whole children, educating them
in academics, morals and life.
Stick to what you know is best practice, and what you believe is right
for your students. Depending on where you teach, you will feel a lot of
pressure from your district, and maybe your principal to increase test
scores. It is important to remember that you have good training, and
Grove City has equipped you with the skills to be an effective teacher.
However, you must remember (for your sanity and your peace of mind) that
the most important things they learn from you cannot be measured by a
When looking for a teaching position, especially in this economy, I
think it is important to keep your mind open to all the options
available to you. Apply for every open position, even if it doesn’t fit
your criteria for an ideal job. Experience is so important, and you
cannot get experience without having a job. Be flexible and get your
foot in the door. A great position may open for
you in a year or two!
More information about
Allison's graduate school experience