For Poirier, teaching special ed was a 'calling'

Rena Poirier said teaching special education was a “calling.”

“I wasn’t always interested in special education,” she said. “I was taking undergraduate education courses and suddenly felt called to teach special education. I tried to avoid it, but my path kept directing me toward special ed.

“I am mother to two children with special needs and understand the frustration and confusion of trying to educate a student without appropriate accommodations/modifications.”

After earning her B.S.E. from Henderson State in 2012, Poirier taught at a private facility and began graduate school at Henderson. She received her M.S.E. in special education in 2015.

Poirier currently teaches special education classes at Ouachita High School where she works with all of the students with autism, as well as other disabilities.

“I teach resource English and reading, portfolio science, math, and life skills/transition classes to grades 7-12,” she said. “I try to focus on the deficit areas of the students’ academic areas and use every opportunity to teach life skills, whether it is reading directions or taking turns, apologizing or learning to clean.”

Poirier said she wants to become certified in autism and may eventually pursue a doctorate.

“But for now, I am very happy to work with my students and help them reach their potential,” she said.

Poirier credits Henderson’s Special Education M.S.E. program for her success and satisfaction in the classroom.

“Dr. (Peggy) Woodall, Dr. (Glenda) Hyer, and Dr. (Carolyn) Dyer are so full of information and try very hard to help their students be prepared to walk into a classroom and be able to do their job,” she said. “They continue to offer advice and support after graduation.

“I have worked with people who received their degrees from other institutions, and when I would ask questions, they had no clue what I was talking about. I realized that I received an amazingly thorough education at Henderson.”

Poirier said the favorite part of her profession is working with the students. “I love watching their faces when they realize that they can do something they never thought to do.”

She advises future teachers studying at Henderson to “pay attention and absorb everything. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. The professors are so extremely knowledgeable and willing to help. Take advantage of it.”

When asked to describe herself, Poirier said, “I would say I am a very passionate special education advocate/teacher. I am willing to go to the wall for my students and have high expectations for them.

“I like to make learning fun so that my students stay engaged (most of the time). I am kind of quirky, but that just makes my students more comfortable. Most of all, I am blessed that I truly love all of my students and I enjoy my work.”