By Lillian Bowe
PNT staff writer
Editor’s note: The “Meet the” series profiles the people behind groups, organizations and businesses in the community.
Before the passage of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act in 1975, special education for school-aged children with disabilities was virtually nonexistent, according to the U.S. Department of Education.
So when Barbara Isaacs was in school, she struggled with spelling. Isaacs recalls her teacher telling her that she did not understand how her older brother could get As while she failed.
“I always remember sitting at the back of the classroom, which was not the place to be, and I felt helpless,” Isaacs said.
This is why for the past 20 years Isaacs has been teaching special education. Isaacs first taught at Clovis High School for 10 years and then Portales High School for the past 10 years.
She is currently the department head of the special education department at Portales High.
Isaacs coordinates schedules for the students in the program and teaches. She teaches all subjects to her students, but her core area is English.
Isaacs, with four children of her own, said she speaks to her students the same way she speaks to her children.
Isaacs said being patient and never giving up on students is what she strives for when teaching.
The most rewarding aspect is to see her students succeed once they graduated.
“It has been a rewarding experience,” said Isaacs, who will be retiring this year.
For Rachel Reyes, her interest in special education did not peak until she took a class at Eastern New Mexico University as part of her general education degree program.
“I took the course and immediately fell in love with it,” Reyes said.
For the past 13 years, Reyes has worked at Valencia Elementary and currently teaches third- and fourth-grade students.
Reyes has seven students she has throughout the day and teaches all subjects, but enjoys teaching reading the most.
“Seeing their progress throughout the year in reading is so amazing,” Reyes said.
Reyes teaches students with intellectual disabilities and visual impairments, and students with irreversible traumatic brain injuries. She said loves special education because she builds a one-on-one relationship with each student.
“Nothing is more rewarding then to get a kid to respond to what I am teaching,” Reyes said.
Reyes has to understand how each one of her students learns the best and teach to that student that way, because no one student learns the same way.
Even when her job gets difficult,, her students can always manage to put a smile on her face.
“They are just full of so much love and are all so unique, they just warm my heart,” Reyes said.