Why I Resigned from My Special Education Teacher Job

teacher photos
Four of my “picture day” photos

Here’s my life-changing decision of 2023: I resigned from my job as a special education teacher in November. I was a teacher for 17+ years.

It wasn’t ideal that I left midyear, but when you know, you know, and the knowing smacked me in the face almost irrevocably.

I left three-quarters of the way to my target of 20 years teaching in Connecticut and a much higher pension upon retiring.  I quit while I still loved my job and found it profoundly rewarding.

So why did I do it?

On the one hand, I resigned because I could afford to go jobless, at least for a few months. Had my husband not had a better-than-usual year, I would have stayed, almost no matter what.

On the other hand, I did it for the same reasons -the exact Whys- I was a special educator.

These Were My Whys

My Family Was My Why

There’s no question that my family tops this list. I would never have become a teacher in the first place had my son Diego not been developmentally disabled.

I’ve witnessed what it’s like for my younger son Andres to have an only brother who has special needs. My husband’s wholehearted embrace of who Diego is and his devotion to the special needs community have blown me away.

Then there’s all I’ve lived through as a parent, good and bad, from rejecting the possibility that Diego would be disabled to celebrating who he is, just as he is.

My Students and Their Families Were My Why

My students go without saying. They were, of course, a handful but also vulnerable, trusting, and adorable, and their gains rewarded my spirit. There’s a place in my heart for every student I taught.

As to parents, I related. I uttered the same crazy stupid comments teachers criticize them for. I asked the same clueless questions we rolled our eyes at.

My special ed students’ siblings were my Why too. It’s more difficult for them than we can imagine, yet they can’t explain how they feel and what they notice.

My Colleagues Were My Why

I cherished my close colleagues. I saw them get married, go through every one of their pregnancies, get their first tattoos, face heartache and hardship, and get a mortgage for their first home.

I’ve gotten to know many phenomenal educators and appreciate the skill and heart this job demands.

The Work Was My Why

I loved the dynamic, fun, creative work of being a preschool special ed teacher. The job gave me purpose and the opportunity for personal growth, which I value above almost everything else.

 Public Education Was My Why

As an educator and parent, I’ve navigated, worked for, fought, and celebrated the public education system. I don’t take for granted the rights of students with special needs to a free and appropriate public education.

My Paycheck and Benefits Were My Why

I will most definitely miss my family’s top-notch health insurance!

The above Whys made it challenging to go, but they also made it clear that I must go.

I didn’t have what it took to do justice to my Whys at this particular time and place. I could no longer commit to this demanding job unconditionally, that is to say, no matter the circumstances. Those last three words warrant unpacking; I shall unpack them eventually.

In Appreciation

I’m grateful for this fantastic job I had for 17 years and encourage anyone drawn to education to go for it. Being a special education teacher will forever be one of the most fulfilling endeavors of my life.

I’m rooting for all you teachers out there! Thank you for doing this work, a work whose complexities are unfathomable for anyone who hasn’t done it.

You are appreciated.

This post is based on the farewell email I sent to my colleagues on my last day.

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