As El Campo ISD welcomed its new special education director last week, she has been planning how to best serve the needs of students, parents and teachers in the program during the upcoming school year.
Amanda Andersen of Bay City was hired at the ECISD school board’s June 22 meeting, replacing Amy Bosse who took a position at Needville ISD. Andersen’s first day as director was last week.
Andersen worked for ECISD as a special education coordinator during the 2019-2020 school year. She took an assistant SPED director position at Fort Bend ISD for the 2020-2021 school year, opting to return to El Campo this year.
“I just feel like there’s a lot of good things happening here … it’s hard to pass up that kind of opportunity,” Andersen said.
Prior to coming to El Campo, in 2019, Andersen also gained experience working with Life Skills, autistic and visually impaired students in coordinator and specialist positions. She began her career as a SPED classroom teacher after graduating from Sam Houston State University.
In ECISD’s special education programs, 390 students are enrolled for the upcoming school year. This number may increase between now and the first day of school on Aug. 11.
The size of ECISD’s special education population is about average for a school district this size, Andersen estimated. During her career, Andersen has worked in school districts about the size of El Campo as well as districts far bigger.
“I enjoyed working in larger school districts, and I really felt like it makes you grow because there’s a lot going on there, and you see a lot of different kids with different disabilities,” she said. “There’s different challenges in larger school districts versus smaller school districts.”
When she was in high school, Andersen saw herself becoming a pediatrician. After a classmate of hers, Sissy, was in a serious car accident that left Sissy disabled, Andersen taught as a substitute in her Life Skills classroom for one year. The experience motivated Andersen to go to college for a special education career.
“The longer I stayed in that classroom I realized that I wouldn’t get to have the impact on people or kids that have disabilities without being in that classroom on a daily basis,” Anderson said. “It really changed my trajectory in life.”
In the upcoming school year, Andersen hopes to give everyone a fresh start after dealing with coronavirus restrictions in the previous year. She doesn’t plan to implement many changes in the department initially, but hopes to visit classrooms and see how teachers work.
“I just really want to come in and just assess and … look at our programming,” Andersen said. “I would like input not only from the parents but also our teachers and even the community just to really see what they feel might need to be changed.”
“I can understand where teachers are struggling because I probably had those same struggles as a teacher,” she added.
Andersen also hopes to create more resources for supporting parents, including a SPED advisory committee or parent organization. She plans to be available for any questions parents or teachers may have.
“They’re the people that are in the trenches every single day,” she said. “We really want their input in what they think is working for their kids and what we can maybe improve.”