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Benerd graduate student creates guide to help home school students with moderate to severe disabilities

Angie Arnaiz

Benerd graduate student Angie Arnaiz created guides to help home school students with moderate to severe disabilities.

Apr 23, 2020
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Angie Arnaiz’s passion for helping students with moderate to severe disabilities prompts her to seek solutions. Her most recent effort went viral.

Arnaiz, a 2018 education graduate, is six units from earning her master’s degree at Pacific. She teaches special education at Franklin High School in the Stockton Unified School District.

When SUSD announced on March 13 that it would shut down due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, Arnaiz was concerned about her students and the extra work that would be placed on parents and guardians. 

“This was not a situation where you can go to Google Classroom and teach,” said the Lodi resident and Tokay High School graduate. “Some of my students do not talk and a few had just received AC (alternative communications) devices. I had to do something to help them.”

Arnaiz started looking for resources that could equip parents and students with strategies, resources, communication skills and more. The idea was to give families solution-based approaches.

“At first, I was looking to put a few links together,” she said. “As things developed, I realized this could be a resource that could help guide many needs.”

Arnaiz also sought to include information specific to the pandemic and the safety of vulnerable students. Her resources include a sample curriculum, vocational skills, sample daily schedules and communication tips. The result was a multi-page guide that Arnaiz worked on “over the course of one weekend.” She made sure it got into the hands of parents or guardians — and then things took off.

Stockton Unified officials learned of the guide and distributed it to all of the district’s moderate-severe special education teachers. Some teachers shared it with colleagues from other districts. Benerd College alumni shared the guide throughout California.

“Angie exemplifies what our special education program is about. Nothing she does surprises me because she is so dedicated to this profession,” said Dr. Christina Rusk, program lead special education and assistant professor. “Angie is the absolute model of what you want to see out of a teacher entering the profession.”

Arnaiz is “beyond shocked” that her guide became a sought-after resource.

“I put it on my Facebook page and maybe told 20 people originally,” she said. “I did not expect it to sort of go viral.”

Added Dr. Rusk: “Her work is probably in the hands of up to 1,500 people at this point. It is so well done and so intuitive. Even though there is so much information, Angie did it in a manner that is easy to follow and understand.”

What is next? Arnaiz realizes her guide is heavy with content tailored to high school students. She plans to adapt it to be more useful for younger students.

“I also will try to keep links and information updated as much as possible,” she said.

Arnaiz said her personal experience with being home-schooled (through ninth grade) has an impact on her approach.

“I remember times when my mother would get frustrated home-schooling me,” she said. “I wanted to make sure this guide would be helpful for others. Home schooling can be difficult, especially for people who have not done it before or feel forced into it. It pleases me to help people.”

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