Becca Pierce didn’t always see herself in the field of special education. Growing up, learning came easily to her, and she couldn’t understand how the other students weren’t able to find solutions. It wasn’t until Pierce began teaching and working with students with special needs that she fell in love with the field.
“The rewards are too many to count. You get them everyday,” she says. “There’s so much love in the world of education!”
As a special education teacher, Pierce would carefully watch how her students reacted to her instruction by their body language and expressions. She used this technique, along with progress monitoring data, to adapt her instruction to fit the different needs of students. Pierce attributes much of her success as a teacher to her belief that students need to feel emotionally safe in order to learn.
“I’d look at my instruction and try something different,” she recalls “At first, it was a lot of trial and error to find something from which a particular student would benefit. But as years went by, those trials and errors wove themselves into patterns and it made it easier,” Pierce says.
She continues, “When I came to the U of M to do my doctoral degree and started reading the research, one of my reactions was a bit of anger. The research was telling me (through one article) what it had taken me years to learn from my students.”
Now a lecturer and coordinator for the Academic Behavioral Specialist (A.B.S.) licensure and M.Ed. program, Pierce says the most exciting thing about her career is seeing students become successful in life.
“In the moment, it’s a joy to witness students master a skill…But as I taught long enough, I could see them become adults and tap into the strengths we worked on. To see students using the same strengths in their jobs and becoming successful wage earners, adults, parents, and spouses that became the bigger reward.”
In the future, Pierce hopes to keep learning how she can help students by preparing special education teachers with the tools they need to better serve students’ needs.
“In the past, I learned from students,” she says. “Now, I need to learn from our teacher candidates to better prepare them with the heart and passion for the job.”
Outside of work, Pierce enjoys traveling. She grew up in Madagascar and spent time teaching in Cameroon, Japan, and Qatar. She and her husband like to travel to places they can scuba dive.