Samantha Badeau’s favorite part of each school year is the first day.
As a special education teacher at King Elementary in Colorado, Badeau grows attached to her students and misses the daily interactions with them over the summer. The feeling is clearly mutual.
“Of course I love summer break, but I really love coming to school and love seeing my students,” Badeau said. “When they come back to school and I see how excited they also are to see me? It just lights me up.”
Badeau—known as “Mrs. B” by many of her students—is the latest educator to receive Summit Learning’s “Teacher Spotlight” honor. It is a monthly celebration to recognize those who go above and beyond to provide meaningful learning experiences.
Badeau doesn’t consider all that she does as a special education teacher to be, well, special. To her, she’s simply following a passion that began back when she was a student who was placed on an Individualized Education Program (IEP) to help her overcome some early difficulties.
“I had some struggles in reading and math, which were really hard for me for a time,” Badeau said. “Then in high school I eventually no longer needed it, but it made me want to help others who did. I started being a teacher’s assistant for students with severe needs and that’s when it kind of clicked. I was like, ‘This is what I want to do in my life. I want to continue to pursue this as my dream.’ So I just went and did it.”
After growing up in Castle Rock, Colorado, Badeau studied special education at Northern Colorado University in Greeley and became further convinced that she made the right career choice. She’s now in her 11th year as a special education teacher, including the last nine years at King Elementary, a project-based learning school in Colorado Springs.
Along with teaching fourth and fifth grade, Badeau proudly serves as a mentor for several of her students. That weekly one-on-one time, which she began doing when the school partnered with Summit Learning four years ago, is often the highlight of her week.
“Having that time set aside each week where I get to build those relationships, that is my jam,” Badeau said. “That is what I love and what I crave. I’ve seen my students with IEPs thrive because of the relationship piece. They might think, ‘Because I have this relationship with Mrs. B, I’m going to work a little harder than for someone I don’t know as well.’”
King Elementary Principal Sarah Arellano calls Badeau “an integral part of our school community” and that extends beyond her classroom. Twice a week, Badeau runs after-school yoga sessions for her fellow teachers to help them maintain their mental and physical health.
“Sam is one of the most compassionate humans that I have ever met,” Arellano said. “She makes connections a priority, and I don’t know a person who has not been impacted by her powerful work. Sam embodies the true spirit of an educator and always comes to the table ready to tackle any barrier in front of us, which is crucial in the times we are in.”
Badeau said teaching amid a pandemic in special education has presented a different set of challenges. For example, teaching and learning while wearing a protective mask makes it difficult for some students who use facial cues to drive their communication.
“Especially the students who struggle with comprehensive social skills, it can be hard to read me and know what my mood is, how I am doing,” Badeau said.
Badeau began the school year by placing photos of herself and her students on a wall in her classroom to increase the connections between everyone and build a strong community. Badeau also forms a kinship with the families of her students, and that was particularly pivotal when her school was in distance learning.
“For each parent, I want them to know that I care about their student and value their input,” Badeau said. “I feel like I’ve communicated more with parents in the past year than ever before. Just like with students, it’s all about building relationships with the parents and earning their trust. It’s crucial that they know they’re a valuable part of their student’s learning.”
At the end of each school year, Badeau hopes every student leaves her classroom with a meaningful lesson that they will carry with them going forward.
“Yes, you’re a student with a disability,” Badeau tells them, “but that doesn’t mean that you’re not capable of going out and changing and impacting the world, in whatever way that looks like for you.”
Do you know a Summit Learning teacher who is going above and beyond to support their students? If so, please nominate them to receive the Summit Learning Teacher Spotlight through this form.