Cal Poly Can

3. Cal Poly Can Podcast - Sue Benjamin

November 17, 2020 Cal Poly College of Science and Mathematics Season 1 Episode 3
Cal Poly Can
3. Cal Poly Can Podcast - Sue Benjamin
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

The Cal Poly Can podcast is produced by the College of Science and Mathematics at Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo, California. Assistant Dean of Advancement and External Relations, Kathryn Dilworth, interviews faculty, students, alumni, and friends whose stories and work inspire and uplift. Collaboration and sharing are the themes of this podcast as we examine the power of mutual service and support for solving problems and answering important questions. 

This quarter, our podcast is focused on the theme of EDUCATION. Education is the core of the Cal Poly mission, and our faculty, students and alumni are engaged in various roles supporting teaching and learning. Each show this quarter will take a different look at the issues facing education on our campus and across the country.

This episode features Sue Benjamin, Liberal Studies Department alumna.

If you have any ideas for upcoming guests or want more information on how to support the programs and projects featured in any of the podcasts in this series, please get in touch with us on our website or by email

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Hello out there, we are so happy to welcome our Cal Poly community to the Cal Poly can podcast. This podcast features you, our community members on and off campus. We are celebrating the remarkable work you're doing, and giving you the opportunity to give a shout out to those whose help and support is crucial to your success. I'm your host, Katherine Dilworth, your assistant dean of Advancement and External Relations in the College of Science and Mathematics. Welcome, and enjoy the conversation. This quarter our podcast is focused on the theme of education and education is the core of the Cal Poly mission. And our faculty, students and alumni are engaged in various roles supporting teaching and learning. And each show this quarter will take a different look at the issues facing education on our campus and across the country. Now, let's get straight to the conversation. Welcome, everyone to the third episode of the Cal Poly Cannes podcast. This season, we are talking about education. And I'm so excited to welcome our alumna Sue Benjamin, who got her degree out of the College of Liberal Arts Actually, we won't say when will we sue, but it's been a little while. And but she her career is in special education. And so we're talking to her about what she's what she does in her role and her passion behind her career. And welcome to so glad to have you today. I'm so glad to be here. Thank you. So tell us a little bit about your time at Cal Poly and especially kind of the legacy of Cal Poly as you've gone through your career. Oh, I love my time at Cal Poly I came in as a junior. And so I knew I wanted to be a child development major. And then that led to internships in special education. And you know, the light bulb goes on. And you know, you found your passion. And I loved the internships on campus and off campus at the schools. And it was just great. I love Cal Poly. Well, you know, this is something these internships of other students have talked about, about how important it's I mean, that's the Learn by Doing experiences in it for for your career. So did you start going into the schools just right away or was this more of a senior project or did you get to kind of experience different classrooms and it was not waiting till senior project. Now it was way before then, as I said, I came in as a junior transfer. So I got into the they put me in the infant lab right away, hands on, you know the whole thing and I was in a school right on the edge of campus just off campus, I got to work there. I did a some internship time at the hospital that's right by school. So all different kinds of different environments, which really helps you hone in what you want to focus on. So tell us what you decided. Tell us what your focus is now. Well, my, after Cal Poly, I went and got my multiple subject teaching credential and my teaching my special ed credential was for orthopedically handicapped kids. So the kids in the wheelchairs that was my first experience had been during an in summer internship. And then also at the school right next to campus, there were lots of kids who with different physical disabilities, and I knew that I could look at a situation kind of problem solve, how to make it work better for the student, how to make the environment, you know, more user friendly, so to speak. So I got, you know, a lot of that experience through my internships, got those credentials, and did a few years of teaching. I taught middle school, I taught elementary school, I taught high school, you know, summer school, regular during the year. So I saw kids of all different ages, with all kinds of disabilities. Obviously, physical disabilities can also include other things. And then I took 15 years off to raise my kids, but never lost sight of you know what I loved and then when my kids on kids went back to school course I was always volunteering in their classes, and looking at problem solving and stuff. And currently, I'm not working as a teacher, but I am working as a special education aid. And I have learned to work with kids with autism and All those you know what a spectrum Autism is. But I'm always sort of drawn to the kids with any physical disabilities. I'm like, let me figure out the environment. Let me figure out how to fix this for you, how to teach you to work in the environment. And it's through those experiences at the elementary schools, that I came to realize what an incredible need. There is for more special ed teachers. A lot of folks start out as teachers and then they get waylaid like me. Real life gets in the way. And so that's I feel like we lose a lot of teachers over time. But it's also strong passion. And I would love to see more people take up special education, teaching, whatever discipline within it that they want to, that speaks to them. How do you how do you characterize the difference that, that special training to work with these students makes in the lives of the students themselves and also their family? Oh, absolutely. It's my training, especially the hands on training, you know, that the learn by doing, I think is what really drew me to working with kids with physical disabilities was because you are doing literally physically doing, but then you also get the mental challenges like working with the kids with autism, have, you know, put yourself in their shoes, in their seats, in their wiggles in how they hear things differently than we do, and try and imagine it from their perspective, and try and help our environment match their learning style. And so it's all about problem solving. And that's something you know, that's, that's, that's a real big part of learned by doing and that learn by doing mission at Cal Poly is problem solving. Absolutely. So you know, it's, I it's very important to you to support new students in this area, and you've funded a scholarship in the College of Science and Math for students who want to go in to this work, this special education career. And so talk about your, your vision, what you hope for the future in this career and, and how that inspired you to create the scholarship. Yeah, I, boy, it, it's a dream come true to have this scholarship. And I'm so excited for the future students who will benefit from this because we need more special education teachers. But it's also we want people who are really passionate to come into special education teaching, because every piece of passion can be used to teach some kids somehow, and teachers have it hard enough as it is, every day, they're challenged, mentally, physically, and monetarily. And if we if I can help, I say we because it's really a family thing. But if I can help a student get closer to becoming a special education teacher, just even a little bit if I can, you know, with a little bit of money, and you know, with a hug of support, then that's what I want for them, I want them to know, we need you, we want you. It just it's so important. These kids, you know, they're, oh, I get emotional when I think about it. These kids need so much. They need the, you know, the people who really understand that they are special, the kids are special, and the people who work with them are special. And we need more people to make that connection. These children are not being shuffled off to rehab centers anymore and being left there. They are part of our community where I live, the kids are integrated into their neighborhood schools. They're not even sent to other schools. Now they are in their neighborhood schools. And all the neighborhood kids are dealing with those kids every single day. They're like, Hey, I saw you know, Janie over at the playground the other day, it was so cool. And Jamie is the special needs kid in her class. So it's a matter of incorporating everything into everyday life. And we need more teachers that can see that and help that and if I can give a little help. I'm sorry. thrilled to do it. Well, it sounds like the, you know, having these children and, and really specialist, the specialist to it's really bringing a benefit to the whole class because I would think that seeing you work with these students is, is also teaching the other students, here's how I can engage, and then you have less, less fear about engagement and a stronger ability to build friendships, you know, and so I can see that it has just a far reaching impact in the classroom, the classroom, the school, the playground, the community, everyone feels that being inclusive is now the norm. Whereas before it was this special thing you did, but you know, now it's, it's like, well, of course, you're gonna see these kids at your neighborhood playground, and, and it's helpful to the parents to to feel included. So you're helping whole families, you're helping the siblings of these kids, you know, learn that their sibling may be different and special, but it's also part of everyone's community. So it's really good for everybody. It is, and I think, you know, you you're just demonstrating through your support this this way that that we can really have a positive impact on our community. Because education, you know, as we're having these discussions in this series around education, I hope that people are starting to see how many areas people are specializing in and working in the impact that it's having on our children. And I think the well way beyond the the career and people who have experienced teaching or, or know someone who's a teacher can appreciate how critical it is to support education. And especially now, as we've, we've seen the amazing way that educators have adjusted all their training to this environment that is so utterly different from it's so two dimensional. Yeah, it really is. And I think that that kind of solving problems that you talked about earlier that you learned at Cal Poly, it's really comes in handy when you have to deliver, you know, in person led things that were designed to be in person in this way. Yeah. So yeah, it's been a big change. It's been tough. But it is just more problem solving. Whether you're have time to think about it later, or doing it on the fly, you know, learn it while you're at Cal Poly, because it matters. Well, and I think people might be surprised to learn how many students at Cal Poly also dream of being teachers and want to go into special ed and want to get credentials in in dual languages. And we have such a wonderful program undergraduate program in liberal studies. And then of course, we have the School of Education in the college and you know, I just really encourage our listeners to support these programs and, and support teachers like you have I mean, we talk about the future is our children, but the teachers are the one preparing the ones preparing them for the future. Yeah, yeah, teachers rock. I was about to ask you if you had any parting thoughts, but I think teachers rock may be just perfect. Dude, thank you so much for joining us. And thank you so much for your support. And for, you know, coming back to Cal Poly and and helping the students that are there now and and what you do is going to make a difference, and we're grateful for you. And I'm grateful for all the teachers. Thanks for listening today. Join us every two weeks for more interviews featuring the remarkable work you do to make the world a better place. If you have any ideas for upcoming guests or want more information on how to support the programs and projects featured in any of the podcasts in this series. please get in touch. Use the link in the description below. Or email me at kdilwort@calpoly. du

Introducing Sue Benjamin