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Sonja Thalheimer ’18MAT: Meeting the Learning Needs of All Students

Sonja Thalheimer ’18MAT has long held onto to the idea that good teaching applies to all students. Now, she’s preparing to graduate with her Master of Arts in Teaching in Special Education.

A photo of NC State Education graduate Sonja Thalheimer Name: Sonja Thalheimer

Hometown: Cary, North Carolina

Field of Study: MAT — Special Education

Activities: Reading, biking, cooking, gardening

What’s Next: Teaching and working with young people in educational settings

I chose to earn a MAT in Special Education because. . .a friend once told me that she sees special education as a way of learning how to support all students for whom the traditional public school system isn’t working out. I’ve held onto that idea throughout my MAT, reflecting on how the knowledge of good teaching applies to students who qualify for special ed services and to those who don’t. Learning about special ed has been really helpful for me to think through how to meet the learning needs of all students.

I chose NC State College of Education. . .because I wanted a combination in person/online program and for its flexible schedule and convenient location.

After graduation, I plan to. . .teach! I imagine I’ll continue to work in education in a variety of positions for a while.

During your time at the NC State College of Education. . .I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about what the role of education is and should be, and what the best education could entail. I’ve found solace, inspiration and engaging conversations by applying my for-fun reading to topics discussed within my classes, especially the work of Paulo Freire. I come back to this quote, from Pedagogy of the Oppressed (1986), again and again, and strive to regularly examine my own teaching under this lens:

“Education either functions as an instrument which is used to facilitate integration of the younger generation into the logic of the present system and bring about conformity or it becomes the practice of freedom, the means by which men and women deal critically and creatively with reality and discover how to participate in the transformation of their world.”

I would ask someone considering education. . .to reflect on these questions: Do you find joy in working with young people? Do you happily talk for hours about education and your dreams for the educational system/yourself as a professional educator? Why do you care about education?