Alternative Special Education—Mild Intervention Program Alumni Profiles

Read our alumni profiles to get a glimpse into the lives of our alumni and how their Butler degree has helped them succeed in the field of education.

Thousands of young people are waiting for special education teachers, and Brandon Brooks wants to see plenty of men answering the call by applying to Butler University’s 18-month Alternative Special Education–Mild Intervention Certificate program.

“I promote the idea all the time. Men being in special education is huge,” said Brandon, who taught special education in the MSD of Lawrence Township (Indiana).

Brandon is a great example of someone who never thought about being a teacher but had plenty of applicable experience.

Life’s experiences inform teaching

Brandon was counseling students at two alternative high schools while pursuing a degree to work with adults when he realized he wanted to keep helping children. He became a youth counselor at a juvenile detention center after graduation, then a teacher of students who needed extra attention because of behavior, school progress, or social skills.

Soon, Brandon managed classrooms for nine teachers, participated in the Restorative Justice Model, and served on the Student Intervention Team for middle and high school students.

“My prayer has always been to have some influence on people. That’s how I ended up in education. I thought that if I could get to them early, I could do some good.”

Brandon describes his disposition as “shepherding,’ which led him to earn a second master’s degree, this one in Ministry Leadership. Teaching special education full-time soon followed, and that’s why he discovered Butler’s Alternative Special Education–Mild Intervention Certificate program.

Though other universities offered similar programs, Butler accepted Brandon’s current teaching job as fulfilling his student-teaching requirement. Other programs would’ve made him do both.

The experience inspired Brandon to earn his third master’s degree, this one at Butler’s College of Education (COE). He became Special Education Chair at Skiles Test Elementary last year and is now Assistant Principal at Heritage Christian High School, both in Indianapolis. Brandon will return to his alma mater to teach classes for COE undergraduates and graduates next summer.

Brandon hopes his attitude about teaching neurodivergent students resonates with other men (and anyone who wishes to make a difference).

“We’re not trying to change the world. We’re just trying to help the people who are in front of us. That’s enough.”

“I’ve been lucky.” That’s a theme Andrew Slack repeats often during a conversation about his career as a special education teacher.

Slack teaches functional academics at Zionsville (Indiana) High School to students with intellectual or developmental disabilities who will go directly into the workforce after graduation. He instructs them in basic math and reading and vocational skills, proficiencies they’ll need on a job site and in everyday life.

“We try to get them into a variety of job sites when they’re juniors and seniors as well as any time they spend with us after that, helping them make connections in the community and find work,” Slack said.

He’s in his second year of his second stint at Zionsville. He first worked there as an instructional assistant while getting his Alternative Special Education—Mild Intervention Certificate at Butler University nearly a decade ago.

From real estate to special education

He’d earned a bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Ball State University in 2011 but didn’t know exactly what he wanted to do.

“I became a real estate agent,” he laughed. “I kind of got lucky in that I ended up working in an elementary school for a while with a special education teacher and found a passion for special ed.”

He said the students inspired him to pursue the work.

“Special ed students are extraordinarily nice and caring people who have a unique set of circumstances and challenges that a lot of people don’t see or appreciate,” he said. “I always appreciated them when I started working in special ed and wanted to be a part of helping them succeed.”

In another lucky break, Slack had moved to Pike High School as an instructional assistant when a teacher told him about Butler’s Alternative Special Education—Mild Intervention Certificate. He enrolled in 2013 and graduated the following spring.

Readied for success

Slack’s Butler instruction helped him stay relaxed when he was in charge of a classroom.

“No one should be intimidated by the thought of teaching children with developmental delays or disabilities. Looking back after a 10-year career, I can say Butler’s program absolutely prepares you to be a special education teacher. When I left the program, I knew what to expect in the classroom and how to be successful. I certainly have recommended it to quite a few people over the years.”

While the job isn’t for everyone, it’s for a lot of people, Slack said—and the students are almost always the best part of the job.

“Students with disabilities are oftentimes kinder and sweeter than any student in the general population. They’re the nicest and happiest students in the school,” Slack said. “While they have a unique set of circumstances, everyone inherently can understand how extra-difficult life would be with the added challenge of a disability. I’ve always felt that most people would appreciate helping someone prepare for life by being a special education teacher. It’s an incredibly rewarding profession.”

He also feels good about how education and society will treat children with disabilities in the future.

I’m optimistic. I’ve been pretty impressed with student bodies over the past few years, how accepting general education students have become of special ed students. I feel like society has gotten better. It’s a slow process, yet as a general trend, I believe we’ve been moving in the right direction.”