Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Success Story- an award winning student- former student in a special ed class becomes an award winning teacher

USI Special Education major receives international award » Evansville Courier & Press
A year from now, Michael Fuchs will walk into a special education classroom as a teacher, which will bring him back to where he started.
But before that happens, the USI senior will accept the Council for Exceptional Children's 2011 Outstanding Undergraduate Student Member of the Year Award. The award is given to one undergraduate student who has made outstanding contributions to the council and exceptional children.
The Council for Exceptional Children (CEC) is the largest international professional organization dedicated to improving the educational success of individuals with disabilities and/or gifts and talents.
Michael Fuchs
Michael Fuchs
"When I first saw the award, I thought there was no way I would get it, because it is an international award," said Fuchs. "But one of my professors nominated me for it. And when I found out I had won, I cried like a little girl. It means a lot to me."
Fuchs says the award also shows how much good work the entire special education program at USI is doing.
"We have a lot of great students out here that have put a lot of time and effort into it," he said. "I like doing what I do, and it is really nice to finally bring some recognition the the special education program at USI."
The award has a bigger meaning for Fuchs than it might for others.
Fuchs could not talk until the age of 4. Doctors initially diagnosed him as autistic, then later with Attention Deficit Disorder. He was in special education classes, first at EARC preschool, then in kindergarten at Howard Roosa Elementary.
"I was in a secluded classroom, with all special education kids," said Fuchs. "From there, I went to West Terrace, and they finally allowed me into a general education classroom."
Fuchs then moved on to private schools at Corpus Christi and Mater Dei.
"As I got older, I was able to deal more with my disability," he said. "If it were not for my parents and the special education system, I would not be here now."
When he was at Mater Dei, Fuchs started working with the Special Olympics as a service project. He was hesitant at first — "I thought everyone with special needs was just plain dumb," he said — but quickly found he loved the work.
And that led him to USI, and a major in special education.
Fuchs is the president of the Best Buddy program at USI, which which provides opportunities for college students to interact with members of the community that have disabilities.
"The thing I like about the Best Buddies program is that for these kids, when they graduate from high school, there is just not that much out there for them for social interaction," said Fuchs. "This is a chance to get them out in the community and go do stuff. I am really proud to be a part of that program."
What happens next for Fuchs is less certain. He is on tract to graduate in December. He wants to teach in an elementary school, but could also wind up in a middle school. And he's deciding whether to stay home or move away.
If you'd like to volunteer for the USI best buddies program or find out more information, you can contact Michael Fuchs at mjfuchs@mail.usi.edu.
As the recipient of the CEC award, Fuchs will receive a plaque during the Awards Ceremony at the CEC Convention and Expo in National Harbor, Maryland. He also will receive an invitation to the CEC President's Reception and be recognized during the CEC Student Forum held at the convention, along with recognition at the CEC headquarters and on the CEC website.
Fuchs was nominated for the award by Dr. Julie Green, assistant professor in the Bower-Suhrheinrich College of Education and Human Services.
"Michael is extremely responsible and has devoted his life to working with students with disabilities," Green said. "He will be an exceptional special education teacher, and will make a difference in many students' lives."
- USI Media Relations Specialist Wendy Knipe Bredhold contributed to this report.
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