Whitfield County Colleges’ Particular Schooling director lives to assist youth
Sep 17 – Ruthie Rule, who lived in a teepee in the mountains of Pennsylvania three decades ago, realized that she wanted to spend her life working with teenagers, especially those facing challenges.
“I’m drawn to these children – something about helping them with their personal struggles appeals to me – and I get a lot of joy from them,” said Rule, director of special education for Whitfield County Schools. “This is my love.”
“There is no such thing as a ‘perfect child’ (just as there is no such thing as ‘perfect people’,” Rule said. “We all struggle – we all have things to work on – and children with special needs” are no different.
Rules “Reputation in the state earned her placement on several state committees, (and) her expertise also made her an excellent board member for the Anna Shaw Children’s Institute,” which helps children with developmental delays, including autism, said Judy Gilreath, the was superintendent of Whitfield County Schools when Rule was promoted to director of special education in April. “We are very happy that we had someone of their caliber in our district and that we were able to take on this important position.”
A native of Tennessee, Rule studied English at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga with the aim of becoming a writer, but one day while working in a restaurant she found herself “sitting at my grandmother’s table and doing something meaningful with my life do”.
So she took a job at Vision Quest and got on a bus to Pennsylvania, where she struggled as the “teepee parent” for teens with a range of difficulties, from social and / or emotional struggles to “behavioral issues,” she said . At Vision Quest, “They’re taking a Native American approach to rehabilitation and they’re getting impressive” results.
With her new direction, Rule earned a Masters in Special Education from the University of Tennessee, and while studying at college in Knoxville, she worked two jobs, the first in a residential group for teenagers with intellectual and autism spectrum disorders, and the second Preschooler with Autism.
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In the group home, where she played a parenting role similar to that of Vision Quest, “you become ‘her person’,” she said. In the latter, she used applied behavior analysis and other immersive behavioral strategies with a child aged 2 to 4 years.
Upon graduation, she was offered “my dream job” at Whitfield County Schools as a middle school teacher in an enclosed classroom for students with emotional behavior disorders, she said. After four years in that role, she became the Special Education Coordinator for the School System and is now in her 24th year at Whitfield County Schools.
Special Education is “very broad” as it encompasses students who may only be included in the label based on ratings to students with the most severe disabilities, she said. Although children are preferred in a “general educational establishment” and adjustments are made for them if necessary, such as classrooms, they stay all day. “
During her decades in special education, “the biggest change has been more accountability in curricula and exams,” she said, making accountability for students and their teachers. “We cannot exclude students with disabilities from state exams or state-run curricula,” although those exams and the curriculum may be “changed”.
“The expectations of these students have increased, but that’s a good thing because they keep showing us that they can exceed our expectations,” she said. “Our goal for all students is (graduation) and employability.”
“It always starts with the assessment,” which can determine whether a child should be sent to special education and what level of services they may need, she said. Staff and students develop individualized educational programs (IEPs) for students and set “reasonable goals”.
Nearly 2,000 students at Whitfield County Schools receive special education, about 16% of the total student body, which is the national average, she said. That number has crept in at both local and national levels in recent years as “we are better at identifying (things like) Autism Spectrum Disorders and other behavioral disorders than we were 25 years ago when some of these children are.” could “. fallen through the cracks. “
The Whitfield County Schools special education division employs approximately 160 teachers and 100 auxiliaries, she said.
“Our teachers and staff are our greatest resource.”
Rule “is an excellent teacher to our students and a mentor to special education teachers,” said Gilreath, who ended her tenure as superintendent on June 30th. “
Rule, who has a 13-year-old son with her husband Bill, succeeds Sarah Barnhardt, who on 1. “She was always calm under pressure and kept a good sense of humor even in difficult times.”
Rule thought “the budget” would be her steepest learning curve as a director because “we have so many different sources of funding,” but her administrative assistant, Lynn Keener, “is a genius with the budget and I have a strong team of coordinators.” around me, “she said.” You need the best coordinators who build teacher guides (and make this work comfortable for everyone “).
Although special education can be difficult, “you just have to find the right person,” she said. “You must have something in your heart that says, ‘This job is for me,’ and we go to these people.”