When it comes to teaching students in special education programs, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach. Each individual student needs teachers who are dedicated to figuring out what it takes to make that student shine.

Angela Keeran knows firsthand how fully committed special education teachers are to each and every student.

“They are required to be creative problem solvers, because the kids we work with don’t always fit into the typical boxes. So we have to frequently think outside the box,” said Keeran, who has worked with students with all ranges of disabilities.

Keeran has worked in Oregon as a special education teacher for more than 10 years, most recently serving at Roseburg High School. She is one of two new special education coordinators starting the school year with the Douglas Education Service District.

The other is Ryan Chandler, who most recently served as a child development specialist at Fullerton IV Elementary School in Roseburg and has mostly worked with students with behavior problems throughout his career. He said the relationships he’s built over the years with students are priceless.

In addition to focusing on individual student needs, Chandler said special education teachers must learn to be humble and patient.

“Change doesn’t happen overnight, it takes time. Sometimes years,” he said. “Not only do we as the adults feel that reward when we see it, but the student does too. They are very well aware of it, and it shows on them.”

Keeran and Chandler hope to impact an even greater number of students through their new administrative roles with Douglas ESD, where they will help oversee special education programs around the county.

“This type of work is really important, because in the smaller school districts, a lot of the times it is too costly for them to hire specialists within their district. The ESD gives those smaller districts the opportunity to receive services that are much needed for the success of so many students,” said Chandler, who will be focusing his efforts on the county’s three Therapeutic Learning Classroom sites. TLC sites offer a transitional program that serves students in kindergarten through sixth grade and is designed to help children with mental health and behavioral concerns.

Chandler’s TLC work will include helping teachers and staff in designing lesson plans and curriculums to meet the needs of the students and standards in reading, writing, and math along with providing supplemental curriculum to more individually meet each student at his or her level. He will also assist the teams in using trauma-informed practices and behavioral interventions.

Keeran will also be supporting special education programs in smaller districts, as well as working with the ESD’s Early Intervention/Early Childhood special education program, overseeing the four classroom sites that are located in the Green District and Myrtle Creek. The classrooms provide special education services to children ages 3 to 5 with disabilities and serve about 120 children from all over the county.

“The children from the classrooms will eventually funnel into kindergartens throughout school districts in Douglas County,” said Sondra Williams, EI/ECSE regional director. “One of the purposes of the classrooms is to support children and their families with this transition.”

Keeran, who is originally from Wisconsin, earned her master’s degree in special education at the University of Oregon. She then worked as a special education teacher at Thurston High School for seven years before moving to Roseburg.

Chandler was born in Roseburg but grew up in Germany. He moved back to Oregon to attend college and has been teaching in Douglas County ever since. Among his roles, he taught third-, fourth- and fifth-graders and also headed up the South Umpqua School District’s behavior program, known as the Opportunity Room.

Douglas ESD Special Education Director, Bryan Hinson, said Chandler and Keeran are valuable additions to the team, with their years of experience in the field and their devotion to serving students.

“One of our goals at Douglas ESD is to ensure students in our rural communities have access to the same opportunities as those in more metropolitan areas, so that they can transition successfully into adulthood,” Hinson said. “Angela and Ryan will serve as vital support to our school districts and children as we work to achieve that goal.”

Chandler said he is excited to begin this new chapter at the Douglas ESD.

“I am going to make sure those schools, staff and students are getting the support they need from our ESD,” he said.

Chelsea Duncan is a communications specialist with the Douglas Education Service District.

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