Tara Dunspaugh graduated from Syracuse University with a bachelor’s degree in Inclusive Elementary and Special Education and a minor in Anthropology. Having joined the School of Education not long after the launch of its fully integrated inclusive teacher education program, Dunspaugh says, “SU literally changed my life. Any chance I get, I tell prospective students about the wonderful experience I had.”
Describe your current roles and its responsibilities.
I’m currently a third grade teacher at Taconic Hills Elementary in downstate Craryville, NY, with a few students who are on 504 plans [referring to Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973]. I’ve been teaching there since 2000.
How did the School of Education prepare you for this role?
The best preparation was having us in classrooms starting in our freshman or sophomore years. By the time I got to my student teaching, I was more than ready. When I started school in the fall of 1995, SOE’s Inclusive Elementary and Special Education program was a first of its kind. It was very beneficial to have both certifications—Childhood Education (grades 1-6) and Students with Disabilities (grades 1-6)—upon graduation, and as a result, I was hired immediately.
What current trends do you see in your specialty and how are you addressing them?
In my school district, the current trend is The Science of Reading, and my district will be providing LETRS training in 2023.
What academic program stood out for you most as a student at SOE?
The class that focused on community building has stuck with me throughout my career. Community building has always been an important part of my classroom, and it always will be! This is where SOE was ahead of everyone else.
Make a pitch for SOE—why should a prospective student choose the School of Education?
My professors were always supportive and helpful. One thing I often reflect on is just how well prepared I was to enter my very own classroom for the first time. Other new teachers that didn’t have half of the classroom experience that I had. These early placements are what really made a difference.
When interviewing for one position, they told me how impressed they were with my resume. That was all thanks to SOE! I’ve been in the teaching field for a long time now, and I often think about how grateful I am that I graduated from SU. My son is now a sophomore in the School of Engineering—I’ll always be proud to be Orange!