Ann Bakeman is a familiar face around the Spero hallways. She has worked as a special education teacher at Spero Academy for over 12 years, stretching all the way back to the early days when Spero was in its infancy, still known as Fraser Academy and only teaching students through third grade. In her time at Spero Academy, Ann has taught hundreds of students and watched the school grow and evolve into the community we know today.
Ann first started working with children and adults with special needs at a summer camp in South Dakota, near her hometown of Sioux Falls. It’s safe to say that summer camp job introduced Ann to her calling. Seeing the kind of impact she could have on the lives and futures of people with special needs, she decided to pursue a degree in music therapy from the University of Minnesota.
After graduating, Ann secured an internship in music therapy at Fraser, a well-known and respected provider of autism services in Minnesota. After the internship, she went on to earn a master’s degree in special education from the University of St. Thomas. Meanwhile, she began working at Spero as a special education paraprofessional. After several months, she took over the position of music therapist at Spero.
At the same time that Ann was in the early days of her career as a special education teacher, Spero Academy was also in its early stages. When a special education teaching position opened up, Ann applied, and the rest is history.
12 Years Later
You don’t stick around just anywhere for 12 years. Ann says she’s stayed at Spero for so long because of the support she gets from the staff and community. “Everyone is really invested in the kids and in helping to shape their futures,” she said.
Ann loves the challenges and rewards that come from working with children with special needs, and she appreciates that the staff trust teachers to make the right decisions for their students.
“I can’t say enough about the support and autonomy I get here at Spero,” said Ann. “It really is a place where you can shape the way kids are taught and implement the latest teaching strategies to help them succeed.”
Challenges and Rewards in Equal Measure
Of course, working with special needs students is not without its challenges, and Ann has encountered her fair share over the years. She recalls one tough class she had five years ago, when there were a lot of behavioral issues in the class that were disruptive to the learning process.
To resolve the problem, Ann decided she needed to separate the students into two different groups. She contacted the school administrators and together came up with the idea to build a wall in the classroom. Within a few short weeks, Tim Greer (another Spero teacher) had built a wall in her room.
“It was amazing to not just know I had the staff’s support, but to see the evidence that they really trusted in my decisions,” Ann said.
The support and dedication among Spero teachers doesn’t end with the school bell. “While I was dealing with that challenging classroom, some of the other teachers would come in on Fridays and pitch in over the weekend to help me lay out a plan for success,” she said. “My colleagues helped me create timelines and plans, and were there for me when I needed the help and support.”
Going the extra mile for her students doesn’t mean there isn’t life outside of work as well! In her free time, Ann enjoys physical activities. She participates in the YWCA Women’s triathlon every August and enjoys all kinds of outdoor events, such as biking, swimming, and running.
Questions for Ann? Send her an email at email@example.com. She’s always happy to talk about Spero, discuss new special education strategies, and answer questions from parents.