Caitlin Hernandez has been working as a Special Education Resource Specialist for the past five years here in San Francisco. After four years at Rooftop K-8, she started this school year working with the students at Malcolm X Academy. Caitlin is the only totally blind educator working in the District. Something she and her students have identified as a strength to her work and connection when working with students who have Individualized Education Plans (IEP).
Caitlin knew what she would need to be able to be a good teacher. And with her union alongside her, she was able to work with her UESF staff representative to push the District to provide suitable accommodations that kept Caitlin in the District working with her students. “The Union stepped in and advocated around the need for disabled students to see themselves, to see someone else who is learning and moving through the world in a different way. My students have shared with me how important that has been for them, and it helps them to feel comfortable doing the same.”
Caitlin spends her days working in small groups with students who need reading, writing, math, and comprehension support. “I love getting to know our students as learners, building out a program centered around their learning styles and strengths,” she said when asked what she loves about her job. “Working in small groups allows me a fantastic opportunity to work more one-on-one. I love being able to understand their different learning abilities but also to get to know them as people.”
Caitlin understands the issues facing public education and the students she serves. The inequities are glaring even within how schools are treated and resourced within San Francisco. “I’m very aware of differences and privileges offered to my students at Rooftop compared to Malcolm X. Or the differences in how Special Education students and students with IEPs are prioritized. It is also undeniable that we have a lack of disabled educators represented in this profession.” All things Caitlin hopes in the future will soon change, “As educators, we are committed to advocating with and for our students and communities. We have so much to teach our students and learn from them about what it truly means to provide and receive a quality public education. I’m proof that change is possible, I didn’t have any disabled teachers when I was in school and I can’t wait to see what the next five years bring.”