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Making Special Education Special

Julie Van Note teaches special education at Yerba Buena's Learning Center.

Teacher of the Month profiles outstanding instructors from schools in Agoura Hills based on recommendations from principals, parents and the community. Send yours to spascal@sbcglobal.net. 

Iowa native Julie Van Note dreamed of two things during her childhood: moving to California and teaching.

“I grew up on shows like CHIPS and Charlie’s Angels and thought California looked like a really cool place to live," said Van Note. "Between my sophomore and junior year of high school, I came out to California and stayed for the summer with my grandmother who was living in Rancho Mirage at the time. We did all the touristy things–Disneyland, Universal, Venice Beach–and I was hooked. I moved out here right after graduating high school.”

Van Note attended Cal Lutheran University for both her undergrad and Master’s programs and holds a Master’s degree in special education. She has been teaching special ed at since 2005.

“I always knew I wanted to be a teacher," she said. "I grew up around kids at my grandmother’s daycare, and I always played the teacher role and took care of them. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t want to teach.”

Van Note’s classroom, the Learning Center, at Yerba Buena is a room where children can learn in a small group environment. She teaches children with learning disabilities and special needs. She also helps children who fall under YB’s RTI (Response to Intervention) program that targets children who are struggling and falling behind, and she attempts to get their education on the right path before an IEP becomes necessary. She also holds a weekly social skills class during her lunch break for kids who need help in that area.

Patch:  What is your favorite thing about teaching?

Van Note:  What I love most about teaching is being with the children. I love their innocence and their honesty and their natural curiosity for life.

Patch:  What is your least favorite thing about teaching?

Van Note:  Meetings–they take me away from my job, which is teaching kids.

Patch:  What made you want to teach special education?

Van Note:  I can’t really remember what it was specifically. Sometime during my undergrad studies, when I was exploring the different options involved in teaching, something just drew me to it. And I’m so happy I chose this field. I absolutely love teaching kids with special needs. I like the small classroom setting, and these children have taught me to look at life from a completely different perspective. They’ve probably taught me as much as I’ve taught them.

Patch:  What do you like to do in your free time?

Van Note:  I like to get together with my friends and relax and catch up. I just bought my first condo, and I’m enjoying fixing it up and decorating. And now that I’m settling into my place, I’m really looking forward to getting into reading again; it’s one of my favorite things to do, and it’s been too long since I’ve had the time to do it.

Patch:  What is the best thing about your job?

Van Note:  Watching a light bulb go off in one of the kid’s heads. When you can tell that they think to themselves, “Hey, I totally get this.” That is so powerful. It makes me so happy for them. And I feel so privileged to be a part of that.

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