Special Education/Childhood Education Student Stories


Katie Braungart

Selfie of Katie Braungart in her classroom.

Special Education/Childhood Education '21

I started my teaching career last year (2022) in the Buffalo Public School district, where I co-taught in a fourth-grade classroom at Westminster Community Charter School. I took a position as a Special Education Teacher and because of a prior student teaching placement, I had the advantage of experience and exposure to the school.

Having spent my whole life in Buffalo, I wanted a change of scenery (more sunshine), so I packed my things and moved to St. Petersburg, Florida. I am currently a fifth-grade Science Teacher at a small elementary school in the Pinellas County School District. I am so thankful for my education at Canisius University. The education program offers graduates a leg up on the rest of the education programs offered in Buffalo. School districts inside and many outside of Western New York are aware that graduates from this program are well prepared and ready to teach. We were offered so many opportunities at Canisius and had knowledgeable professors with real-world experience that really cared about our education and success. All of my field experiences along with the mentor teachers I worked with were all amazing and worked with me to help develop my confidence as a teacher and my teacher toolbox. 

Because of the experience gained and the wealth of knowledge that I was able to gain from Canisius, I felt that I was very marketable in the districts I applied to. In every interview I had prior to moving to Florida, I was offered a position because they were impressed with my confidence and how many tools I had from my Canisius education. It gave me a distinct advantage over my peers during the application and interview process. I am forever indebted to Canisius and their wonderful professors for helping me create a career I love!

Shannon Mulhern

A selfie of Canisius Alum, Shannon Mulhern, in her classroom.

Special Education/Childhood Education '19

While at Canisius, I majored in Childhood Special Education with a concentration in Social Justice. After graduating from Canisius in 2019, I started my teaching career in Buffalo Public Schools as a sixth grade self-contained special education teacher. Since then, I have taught in a fifth grade self-contained classroom as well. This is my fourth year in the Buffalo Public School district and I have taught each year in an 8:1:1 setting. 

I feel confident that my education at Canisius University prepared me for my teaching career.
In the education field, being in the schools gives you the most valuable experience. Canisius places their teacher candidates in the field as part of their course work every semester. In my opinion, this made all the difference in my preparation for becoming a full-time teacher. The small class sizes at Canisius gave me the opportunity to ask questions, build stronger relationships with my peers and professors, and allowed us all to learn from each other. Because of the knowledge, relationships, and experience that I gained at Canisius, I felt confident in my ability to apply for, interview, and get hired for a variety of teaching positions. The professors at Canisius prepared me for the application process and made it their mission to help students like myself build connections and get the position I dreamed of. I will forever feel thankful for the experience that I had at Canisius University, as well as the amazing professors that I met and learned from along the way!


Kelsey Jankowiak 

Special Education/Childhood Education '17
MS in TESOL '19

To be transparent, Canisius was never in my life plan. Since I was in high school, I had my eye on leaving NY as soon as possible... After not getting into my "dream" school out of state, I ended up choosing Canisius because many of my family members graduated from Canisius, so it was familiar (plus a NYS teaching degree is highly regarded world wide). I am so glad that the universe led me down this path - a true blessing in disguise. Canisius challenged my thinking, taught me about global awareness, and opened my mind in so many ways. My education at Canisius fueled my passion in not only education, but global awareness and advocacy. After graduating undergrad in both childhood and special education, I knew that I wanted to bring educational opportunities to every corner of the globe. I decided to go to India to volunteer teaching English at a slum school while attending the TESOL master's program to put my knew skills and knowledge to use. I was hooked! My TESOL degree has allowed me to land a job fresh out of college at a major international school as an EAL specialist in Vietnam! The school I work at is so impressed by the wealth of knowledge and the skills that I have brought to the school. Canisius gave me an amazing education, and well prepared me for any teaching obstacle! My professors were so supportive and helpful - and that makes all the difference in the world! Thank you, Canisius for  shaping me into the teacher I am today! I can confidently say I would do it all over again if I could.

Rachael Weissenburg 

Special Education/Childhood Education '17

The Childhood/Special Education program and the Jesuit values that Canisius University emphasizes lead me to complete a year of volunteer service through Mercy Volunteers Corps right after I graduated. I was able to volunteer and work as a special education teacher in a Multi-Sensory classroom at St. Michaels Association for Special Education (SMASE), which is located on the Navajo reservation in St. Michaels, AZ. My classroom consisted of the most medically fragile students, who are so amazing, inside and out. Teaching this population of students requires unique strategies and techniques that I gained through the Childhood/Special Education program at Canisius. After completing my year of service, I decided to stay and work in the same classroom for another year, which is where I am now.

The learning experiences, memories, and relationships that I made at Canisius and within the Childhood/Special Education program will stay with me and impact me for the rest of my life. I am so thankful for the program for giving me the opportunities and experiences I’ve had so far and for leading me to where I am today. If you are considering Canisius University Childhood/Special Education program, it will change your life and prepare you to be the best educator that you can be.

Christina Kane 

Special Education/Childhood Education '15

I believe that teaching isn't only a career; it's a calling. I was unsure of my major when I first arrived at Canisius, but when I took my first class in teacher education, I immediately felt at home. I was given so many hands-on experiences early on to make sure this was the right path for me- I was already in the classroom teaching my first lessons during my sophomore year! The small class sizes allowed me to get to know my professors and colleagues on both a personal and professional level; the support I received in the classroom helped fuel my passion for teaching. Trying to become a certified teacher can be stressful, but I never felt alone. From helping us set up our online TEACH accounts to showing us how to practice for the EdTPA, the professors at Canisius helped me take steps toward my future career. 

I am now starting my 5th year as a special education teacher, and I still keep my Canisius family close. Many of my professors have kept in touch and have served as mentors along the way. Two years ago, I was able to give back by mentoring a student teacher in my own classroom. I have learned a lot in my five years of teaching, but none of it would have been possible without the solid foundation Canisius gave me!

Jazmine K. Hargrave-Williams

canisius SPED Story

Early Childhood/Special Education '13
Deaf Education '14

My Canisius University education afforded me the opportunity to get first hand experience working with all types of students. From service learning and practicum hours to student teaching placements, along with the guidance of my professors, I spent valuable time in the classroom putting theory to practice thus developing my own unique teaching style. When entering the workforce I felt prepared to provide students with an education that meets their cognitive and developmental abilities. In my current role as a Special Education Teacher I am able to use the skills I acquired at Canisius to adapt the curriculum to create a successful learning environment.

Canisius SPED Story 2

Kelsey Alvarez 

Special Education/Childhood Education '13
Legette Blythe Elementary

From day one of walking into my very own first classroom, I felt so incredibly confident in my abilities to be a strong teacher because of the amazing education professors I had at Canisius. All of my education professors were up to date with the latest trends, many, even noticing where education was headed in the future. I specifically felt most prepared in teaching all learners in my classroom, despite any differences they brought into my classroom; academically or personally.  I was fully prepared to give all students access to an equal education with high expectations, without altering their final learning outcomes. Students in my classroom never go a day without hearing about being leaders for others. Just as Canisius created strong leadership qualities in me, I want to create my students to be well prepared leaders in the world as well. Without Canisius and the relationships I built while there, I know I would not be where I am in my teaching career. I am so proud and grateful to be a Canisius University Alumni! Even all the way in Charlotte, NC many principals I have interviewed with have picked me as a candidate because they saw Canisius University as my undergraduate education....Go Griffs!

Ben Harrington Canisius

Benjamin Harrington 

Special Education/Childhood Education '06

In May of 2006 I walked across the stage, graduating from Canisius with a degree in Elementary and Special Education. During my three and a half years at Canisius, I learned an incredible amount with much credit to the thoughtful field experiences and opportunities that grew from each placement. The program at Canisius reinforced my personal beliefs that hard work and high expectations yield great results, and leading by example is required. These I found to be true as a first year special education teacher in Charles County Maryland. As a first year teacher, I was ahead of the curve and able to thrive in my position due to the high quality preparation I received at Canisius.

Fast forward 14 school years, as a second-year elementary school principal, I have opportunities to add talent to my instructional staff through recruiting and hiring new teachers each year. Leadership qualities are what we look for along with the desire to grow, motivate, connect with, and love the students. When given the opportunity to interview candidates from high quality colleges, I find the most highly sought after candidate is one who has leadership abilities, wants to grow, and can connect with children. Each year I reach out to Dr. Marya Grande and Canisius for candidates looking to evade the snowy climate of Western N.Y. and willing to move down to an area rich in history, beaches, and warm weather. I will always search for a candidate with a rich background in leadership and a love for teaching and learning. I look forward to opportunities to return to Canisius in order to share experiences as a successful young leader and educator.

SPED Story Canisius 5

Meaghan Jimenez 

Special Education/Childhood Education '03

I was lucky enough to attend Canisius University from 2001-2003 where I earned my undergraduate degree with certifications in both Elementary Education and Special Education.  Immediately out of college I pursued a teaching career as a Special Education teacher at a high school in the Buffalo Public Schools.  While there, I had the opportunity to teach in inclusion, self-contained and resource rooms.  After 11 and a half years, I moved to the Phoenix, Arizona area and I currently work in a wildly different setting.  I am a Special Education Lead for a Great Hearts school - Arete Preparatory Academy - in Gilbert, Arizona.  My responsibilities do include some teaching and IEP writing duties, but I spend the majority of my time as the head of our Special Education department at my school.  I have a small teaching team that I mentor and lead as well as a caseload of 32 students with a wide variety of disabilities that I teach and conduct the evaluations for.  Additionally,  I coordinate with all related service providers to ensure all students needs are being met, conduct intake and exit procedures, work with higher level administration, and ensure that the special education department at our school is in compliance and up to date on the best practices.  

Although I have 16 years teaching experience in a wide variety of settings from inclusion to self-contained and inner city public school to wealthy suburban charter school, I still harken back to many of the lessons learned while at Canisius, specifically in the Teacher Ed. Department and even more specifically with Dr. Marable and Dr. Grande. I remember their classroom stories, their personal teaching strategies, their research and their love for the profession.  I still utilize many of the strategies and lessons I learned from the teachers in the Teacher Ed. Department on a daily basis, even 16 years later.  I also continue to reach out to Dr. Grande for support, encouragement and professional advice and she is always willing to help! 

Lauren C' 17

Current Students