Teaching Outside the Box: An Interview with Alicia Snyder | Homeschool Helpers

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Alicia Snyder is a Special Education Paraeducator, LRE. She works at Horace Mann Dual Language Magnet school, which teaches students in both English and Spanish. Alicia reads, writes, and speaks Spanish fluently.

HSLDA: Alicia, what was your childhood homeschool experience like? What’s your best experience from it?

Alicia Snyder: My childhood homeschool experience was full of positive encouragement, loving support, connection, and learning. I enjoyed learning alongside my brother and sisters and I treasure the positive interactions we had every day.

My mom inspired me to love learning by taking us outside to learn about the types of trees, clouds, and even seashells. Her evident love of words and word origins gave me a thorough foundation in English—even though it seemed like drudgery at the time. I am now grateful for her diligence, as my knowledge of grammar and parts of speech has often come in handy at my job.

My dad graded our school work at night, writing encouraging notes and even leaving little surprises when he could tell we had done an excellent job. He also taught us science by doing practical experiments with us. I remember being intrigued by looking at plant cells, human blood, and other items under the microscope.

During our homeschool experience, we raised silkworms, hatched chicks, visited historical sites, went on field trips, and learned about states as we traveled through them. All this learning took place in the context of unconditional love. Because of this, learning became a passion for me.

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HSLDA: Describe what you do in your job. How did homeschooling prepare you for what you’re doing now?

Alicia: I teach reading, math, and Spanish to special education students one-on-one, in small groups, and in the classroom. The students I work with have learning disabilities and are often several grades behind. Some have great difficulty retaining information.

I try to think outside the box as I educate these students. I enjoy the unique opportunity to utilize new, creative teaching methods.

The Spanish I learned when I was homeschooled prepared me for this job. My parents felt it was important for me to learn Spanish, so I studied Spanish in junior high. After I had learned a significant amount through studying, my parents encouraged me to visit our Spanish-speaking neighbors and learn to speak Spanish conversationally so I could teach them God’s word and lead them to the Lord.

My mother also gave me an excellent preparation for my job by teaching me Greek and Latin roots for English words.

HSLDA: What inspired you to enter this field?

Alicia: My grandmother. She is a highly educated reading specialist with many years of experience as a classroom teacher. She frequently told me stories of how she transformed students’ lives through careful intervention and attention to their specific needs. She pointed out that many times, children with learning challenges are not hopelessly “disabled.” Instead, they often have a physical problem. Being attentive and fixing these physical problems sent them on their way to success in life.

My grandmother prayed for many years that I would become a teacher. Her stories inspired me and I chose teaching because she truly gave me a love of teaching in my heart.

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HSLDA: What is the most challenging thing you’ve had to deal with in your job as a public servant?

Alicia: One of the most challenging things I have experienced is the stress of trying to help children who do not want to be helped. I love teaching and have many resources, ideas, and curriculum to teach these children. But it can be frustrating when they refuse to take advantage of that help.

It is also discouraging when school leadership adopts a hopeless attitude toward these children (i.e. “This child will never learn or make much progress”).

HSLDA: What is your best experience as a public servant?

Alicia: One of my best experiences is watching a child’s eyes light up when he realizes that he can finally read, add, or subtract. After years of daily repetitions of the same concept, it is very exciting to see the child reading fluently or acing a simple addition quiz. I love seeing children’s confidence bolstered and their personalities blossom in the context of relationship. It is inspiring to watch a child invest hundreds of hours of grueling yet joyful work trying to master a concept. I also enjoy working together with experienced and caring General Education teachers who truly have the best interests of the children in mind.

Many thanks to Alicia for sharing her story! This interview is part of our Homeschool Helpers series, which highlights homeschool graduates and parents across the nation serving their communities as public servants. If you’d like to read more inspiring stories, click here.

Photo Credit: First graphic designed by Mark Thoburn, HSLDA; photos courtesy of Alicia Snyder

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