Some of her students can’t talk. Others use wheelchairs. Many live with cerebral palsy or Down’s syndrome.
All these challenges just help motivate Wendee Bertke, an intervention specialist in the multiple disabilities classroom at Coldwater High School near the Lake Campus.
“I work on a very personal level with each of my students and relish the challenge of trying to figure out how to teach each one. Each student is so very different and interesting,” explained Bertke, who earned a master’s degree last August through the Lake Campus intervention specialist education program. She is now in her fourth year at the high school through the Mercer County Educational Service Center.
Bertke, who earned a bachelor’s degree at the Lake Campus in 2002 in early childhood education, became interested in special education when she attended St. Mary’s High School. “I babysat a child with special needs and very much enjoyed the experience. It laid the groundwork for my career in special education.”
Bertke explained that she learns a lot from her students as well. “They look at the world in a way that no one else does. It makes you stop and think sometimes.”
Bertke said the smaller class size (nine students) allows her to customize her teaching to the needs of each individual, whom she typically has for several years. The learning pace is much slower, as in most cases she works for the entire school year on very few skills. These include teaching the high schoolers to prepare a meal or follow a schedule.
“It can be very overwhelming when looking at all the needs of your students. I can see where being a perfectionist can get you into trouble. Some days you feel like a video game, just dodging things coming at you.”