by Jacqueline Liao
While many students pass by room 504 every day as they walk to and from the library, few have visited the special education classroom – more specifically, Ms. Arlene From’s room. It is here where Ms. From’s students come every day, from grades ninth through twelfth, to receive academic and organizational support.
Ms. From enjoys teaching special education because she is able to help the same kids all throughout their time in high school. “I like that I can build a rapport with my students,” she said. “It’s a support program; you get a chance to build a relationship with the kids because you know them on all different levels. It’s not that I teach them one subject one year and never have them again. I like that I get to have them for four years.”
After going to college without a clear idea of what she wanted to do in the future, Ms. From became interested in teaching after she took some education classes. She worked with special education children in her first job and decided to get her master’s degree in that discipline. She began her life in education from there, and in her forty-two years of teaching, she has spent thirty-five of those at South High.
In that time, Ms. From asserts that she has been “tough” and that she “offers a lot of structure” in order to help her students “self-advocate” and “become independent.” She said, “I enjoy teaching teenagers, and I enjoy helping them figure out the best way they can learn. If I can break things down and explain things to them so they can understand it, and […] do better on tests, those are the things I enjoy. It makes me happy to feel their successes.” Ms. From particularly enjoys it when her alumni visit and tell her what they’re currently doing.
While she has many happy memories of teaching, Ms. From’s recalls most fondly an awards ceremony for seniors. “I had a student who was this huge kid. He was like the Incredible Hulk—big,” she recalled. “I was presenting this student with an award. I was standing at the front of the auditorium with all the other special education teachers who were there to present awards. I gave him the award—and he picked me up. The whole audience started cracking up.” Ms. From said that, despite her embarrassment, she remembers the moment because it shows “the kind of rapport [she has] with [her] kids.”
After this school year, Ms. From plans on moving to Florida where she hopes to “start a new life” and become more active. She also plans on teaching stained glass—a longtime hobby—to adults in her retirement community. “That will keep me teaching, something I love doing,” Ms. From said.