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Educator finds love for teaching early on

20140627 SISD-Teacher Stephan-SlawsonMISSION—As a teenager, Stephan Slawson volunteered his time to help his favorite teacher with students in his campus special needs program.

Now, as the Sharyland District Teacher of the Year for secondary education, he believes the seed was planted early that sprouted his love for education.

Originally from Michigan, Slawson said that same favorite teacher was his inspiration to become an educator.

“Mrs. Hyslop is the teacher that I owe my spark and passion for working with special needs students to,” Slawson said. “Thank you Mrs. Hyslop, you had no idea how much you influenced my education, careerchoices and my life in general. Thank you for everything that you did and I wish I couldhave told you how much you meant to me.”

Sadly, Hyslop passed just after Slawson graduated high school and started his education with Michigan State University. After earning a degree in Psychology, Slawson accepted an opportunity to earn his alternative certification in the Rio Grande Valley.

Sharyland ISD hired Slawson in 2005, but he explained after his first year his wife was relocated back to Michigan.

“This was devastating for me, because I had found my passion, and I had to walk away for my family,” Slawson said. “Fate, however, took our lives for a turn and we ended up back in Texas one more time.”

After coming back to Texas in 2010, Slawson has spent four years as an educator and acquired a certification for Special Olympics of Texas Coach. His certifications cover basketball, soccer and track and field. He is currently working to earn certifications in bocce, power-lifting and bowling.

The teacher of the year said the students who compete in the Special Olympics are the epitome of sportsmanship and bravery. He added it has been an honor to not only be involved in his students’ life as a teacher but as a coach as well.

Slawson said the job is rewarding solely by the look on a child’s face after they accomplish a task. He said seeing a student achieve a goal that not only they but also society believes they cannot do is his gift from teaching.

“Teaching is an occupation that is stressful and demanding but it can also be oneof the most rewarding occupations as well,” Slawson said. “My philosophy of teaching is not better thanany other teacher that is currently in the occupation now, but it works for me. I believethat there are a few keys to being a good teacher: honesty, flexibility, communicationand fun.”

Working in the special needs/self-contained classrooms, Slawson has students with various types of disabilities and who have their own individualized level of academic, social and vocational functioning.

Manners and respect are themes that are continuous in Slawson’s classroom time. He added his focus is to teach his students not only curriculum but the proper knowledge for leading an independent life.

“We work ontreating others the way that you would want to be treated,” Slawson said. “Hopefully, my students canshow respect and gratitude towards other individuals without being prompted. This willtake any student far in life.”

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