<%@LANGUAGE="JAVASCRIPT" CODEPAGE="65001"%> Bonnie Springer
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Department of Teacher Education
Bonnie Springer/Teacher Education
Special Ed Prof Brings Special Gifts and Motivations
By Helen Stewart Mann

Dr. Bonnie Springer, an associate professor of teacher education at the College of Charleston, has made it her life's mission to help children with emotional disturbances and teach those who will work with them.

A native of Sacremento, Calif, Springer says: "I knew from the age of 11 that I wanted to teach children with emotional disturbances. I think that I was drawn to the field because of my service in Girl Scouting, and because both of my parents were teachers, and I was fascinated by the students in their classes who provided them the most challenges,"

Springer's career at the College of Charleston began in 2003 after a job announcement for an assistant professor position in special education with an emphasis in emotional disturbance came across her desk. At the time she was teaching at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. "I applied and the rest is history," she says. "I applied because of the categorical nature of the position. It excited me to be able to focus on my area of expertise and my passion - teaching students with emotional disturbances."

Her special education work began years earlier. In Georgia and California she spent 18 years in direct service to children and youth with emotional disturbances before she entered higher education teaching. After she earned her Ph. D. in Special Education Leadership- Emotional Disturbance from the University of Georgia she stayed in the elementary school special education classroom for a few years.

Springer shares that it was actually the faculty in the school that "pushed" her to take her career to the university level. "My students made me promise that 'I would make more teachers like me' before they would let me go," says Springer, who also has a bachelor's degree in music therapy from the University of Pacific Conservatory of Music, a master's degree in Special Education, Emotional Disturbance from the University of Georgia, and a licensure in elementary education from Fresno State University in California.

Regarding her undergraduate studies in music therapy, Springer says what drew her to this unique field: "My own experiences with music inspired me to pursue a degree in music therapy in order to use music as a tool for teaching students with emotional disturbance. I knew that music provided me with nurturance, joy and fulfillment."

She also explained that her mother would set spelling words that had to do with music and that helped her learn. She was then "convinced that this was a key for me professionally."

Springer continues to be involved in music. She actually has her own jazz record label called Dr. Mac Records. The College of Charleston's Portico employee newsletter recently featured a story about her record label. (Click here to read that article).

In Fall 2009 Springer took sabbatical from the College. She dedicated her time to research involving helping adults learn how to teach not only the minds of students, but their hearts as well. She hopes that her research will help adults develop skills that will enable them to "see beyond deviancy to the heart of their students who I believe ALL have, at their essence, goodness."

The ideal stated above was taken from her sabbatical project proposal titled "Study of Six Years of Implementation of Positive Behavior Intervention and Supports (PBIS) in a Southern Urban School System." Her primary focus will be to study the effectiveness of the six year Positive Behavior Support Initiative undertaken by the Charleston County Public School District as part of the S.C. Department of Education's School Improvement Grant.

This award was made to assist the state in decreasing the disproportionate representation of African American students in special education programs. It was also made in order to assist in counteracting the patterns of suspension and expulsion of African American students with resulted in the deprivation of much needed quality education.

As she continued in her career, teaching students with emotional disturbances and those most excluded in regular or general education, she increasingly became convinced that in order for her students to achieve success, there needed to be home school environments that were accepting for all types of students. This ignited her interest in research on Positive Behavior Supports in schools.

Inspiring and compassionate are just a few words that can be used to describe Springer and her innovative ideas on educating special needs children and making the education system a better place for all students. She enjoys teaching classes at the College of Charleston and definitely brings her research interest and teaching experience to the classroom.

But what motivates her as a professor? "Seeing students fall in love with teaching really tough kids," Springer says. "Also seeing students find themselves and their talents as they become the teachers in their own classrooms."