Meet Caitlyn Robinson, our 2023 Alumni Achievement Award recipient! She graduated from ACE twice – in 2020 with an M.Ed. in Special Education and 2022 with an M.Ed. in Teacher Leadership. Her commitment to special education and creating safe spaces for children with disabilities has been a continuous theme throughout her influential career. We were excited to speak with her and learn more.
ACE: Congratulations on receiving the 2023 Alumni Achievement Award! How does it feel to be selected for this honor?
Caitlyn Robinson (CR): It was exciting to find out that I was selected! I’m so thankful that I have a supportive family and colleagues who encouraged me to stay the course and lean on my faith to achieve my goals. I’ve spent a lot of time over the past few years building my toolbox to continuously learn and grow as an educator and leader, and I’ve always tried my best to let my heart lead and allow the rest to take care of itself.
ACE: What inspired you to not only earn one, but two master’s degrees at ACE?
CR: I’ve always aspired to include and teach children with exceptionalities, and I wanted to learn best practices to help me meet their needs and support their families. Even in my own family, I wanted to help my son with disabilities live his best life. Once I received the M.Ed. in Special Education, I found that I was able to influence the world around me with the new knowledge I had gained. It helped me see that the sky is the limit and that furthering your education opens doors and opportunities. This inspired me to seek my M.Ed. in Teacher Leadership because I desired roles in that area. At the end of the day, I’m a lifelong learner, and I believe that knowledge unlocks wisdom that impacts the world around us. I love the quote, “When we know better, we do better.”
ACE: How did your degrees from ACE enhance or move your career forward?
CR: I now have the educational background that I need to influence changes and decisions for children with disabilities. I have confidence in my ability to move the needle forward and impact experiences for them and their families. It’s one thing to have the experience, but when I add in education, it helps provide credibility since I spent time building a foundation that supports my interactions and decisions.
ACE: Your career has included very influential roles that support children with disabilities. What led you to this pathway?
CR: My role as a teacher supporting children with disabilities occurred very naturally. I’ve always been the one who accepted them with open arms, and I loved it because it challenged me to figure out how to help them reach their potential.
When I became the parent of a child with a disability, I began to see their families in a different light, and it lit a fire within me to focus on improving systems and practices. This passion led me to the Louisiana Department of Education, where I spend a lot of time talking to system leaders and working with families to help them navigate the world of special education. It’s exciting to give back, and I developed relationships with local parents of children with disabilities through organized social events that we created through SpedTacular Kids of Central. I found that many of these families had the same desires I had for my child, so I created the Central Inclusive League for children with disabilities to play baseball together. Currently, I’m expanding my efforts statewide and even nationally by working closely with childcare providers, district administrators and community leaders.
ACE: You also serve on the National Association of State Directors of Special Education 619 Affinity Group Executive Council and as an aRPy Ambassador. Which of these outstanding accomplishments are most meaningful to you and why?
CR: All of my accomplishments over the past few years are meaningful and have allowed me a seat at the table to better advocate for children with disabilities. However, right now, the Central Inclusive League means the most to me because it has allowed me to significantly influence our children with disabilities and their families while also providing them the opportunity to interact with children without disabilities. It cultivated mindset changes and impacted lives. It has been truly inspiring to see the smiles of everyone that participated.
ACE: What advice would you give to someone pursuing a career in special education?
CR: I had a quote posted in my classroom that said, “If a child doesn’t learn the way we teach, maybe we should teach the way they learn.” My advice to someone pursuing a career in special education would be to enjoy the little things and educate yourself to meet individual needs. Sometimes you’ll have to be brave and take chances with new strategies, and if a strategy doesn’t work, love them through it and try again tomorrow. As a teacher, I always tried to make it my daily goal to walk out the door knowing that I did all I could to love them where they were. Some days I felt like we took three steps backwards, but I lived for the days when we took three steps forward. What I found was that those that I wanted to inspire ended up inspiring me. Miracles come at unexpected moments, so always be ready and willing!
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