Special Educator

Special education major Taylor Provax (Matt Hawkins photo)

Matt Hawkins
January 16, 2017

A chance freshman Welcome Week encounter with Bradley’s Best Buddies club opened elementary and special education major Taylor Provax ’17 to the blessings of befriending people with disabilities.

Chicago native Provax came to Bradley interested in elementary education, but the Best Buddies Welcome Week display caught her eye one day. The club, part of a national organization, builds bridges between able people and those with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Best Buddies focused her passion toward special education and enhanced the lessons she learned in the classroom and student-teaching situations. As club president for two years, she oversaw campus outreach, student-buddy pairings and group social events.

“Shifting to special education was one of the best decisions I’ve made at Bradley,” she said. “It’s a lot of hard work, but it’s rewarded me with patience and empathy for others.”

While Provax appreciated personal growth from the administrative role, relationships between students and buddies brought joy. She most valued cheery social media posts from her friends with disabilities and their smiles as they bonded over ice cream, bowling, Bradley athletics and other events.

Those outward expressions showed the club positively touched the lives of people who often are isolated.

“It’s great to see inclusive friendships make a difference in the lives of students and the people they’re paired with,” Provax said. “As a leader, it’s wonderful to see the joy friendships bring as they develop over the years.”

Best Buddies also helped her navigate classrooms in Peoria-area schools. Firsthand experience relating to people with different disabilities made it easier to connect with students she met in classrooms. As a result, she developed rapport with a child who struggled with behavioral issues as well as she helped middle school students understand tricky math concepts.

Professional classroom victories affirmed Provax’s career choice and demonstrated the value Bradley’s teacher education program places on experience. Future educators observe classrooms as freshmen and work with individual students and classrooms while being mentored by professional educators. A student-teaching semester caps the training.

Bradley students also explore educational settings beyond their chosen career path. In addition to mentoring students with varying academic challenges, Provax worked in multiple academic areas with students of varying ages and socioeconomic backgrounds.

“I’m glad I got a taste of any experience I might face, not just an ideal classroom,” she said. “That helped me prepare to be an effective teacher, especially the way I learned to think on my feet to meet students’ different needs.”