Name: Jean Lawson
Graduation Year: CBC 1983; AGTS 1990
Major: Christian Education
Current Position: Special Education Teacher
City and State: Springfield, MO
Tell us about your career and what you do now.
I am a classroom teacher at Truman Elementary. My students range from kindergarten through 5th grade. They have autism, which impacts them so significantly that they are not able to learn in a regular education classroom. In my class, we provide intensive interventions in communication, socialization and sensory integration.
I also teach them academics at their pace and in ways that are meaningful to them. Students with autism may need to have frequent breaks and have concepts presented in small chunks. They learn best working one-on-one with a teacher or in very small groups. They usually love academic songs videos and hands-on materials to experience their learning. And they are motivated to do non-preferred tasks with reinforcement tokens or items of something from their special interests, like trains or zoo animals, and then earn some free-choice time. I use evidence-based practices for students with autism, like structured teaching, reinforcement, task analysis, video modeling, schedules, visual supports, social narratives, and computer-aided instruction. I see changes made over the years in each life as students learn how to better cope with the confusion and anxiety that those with autism deal with.
In a nutshell, what I do now is make a difference in the lives of children with autism and their families to improve their lives and possibilities for their future.
What is your favorite memory from CBC/AGTS?
I made some great friends at CBC. Living in the dorms gave us many opportunities for conversations and fun, just living out life together. Those were early years in my spiritual walk as a new believer, so it was a time of intense, accelerated growth in my understanding of who God is and who I am in Christ. I would spend extended times in the prayer room every day, and grew to know the presence of God we can experience. That has always stayed with me. Oh, and of course, that is where I met my husband, David! He and I had a special connection through our love for Jesus. We have remained locked on Him through 35 years of marriage.
At AGTS, I liked that my courses focused on my area of interest, and went into even more depth than undergraduate courses.
How did CBC/AGTS help you identify/develop your calling?
The courses I took at CBC allowed me to explore various areas. I took a number of courses in music, psychology, and youth ministry. I was able to expand my knowledge and experiential base. I didn’t know what the future held but trusted that God was preparing me for what He had planned.
I went to AGTS because I sensed the Holy Spirit leading me to further my education. The emphasis in my Christian education program there was in Christian school administration. I learned organizational and leadership skills, which I knew would benefit me in whatever God had for me.
How did your experience at CBC/AGTS prepare you for life after graduation?
After graduating from CBC, I was hired at Gospel Publishing House in the Book Editing department as editorial secretary. You needed a college degree for even that position. I move into an assistant editor position, then managing editor, then product development coordinator. My background from both CBC and AGTS was critical in the editing of Christian books and curriculum for the local churches. I was a freelance writer for curriculum and wrote articles for a number of the departmental publications.
My love for education, and also for those with special education needs, led me to pursue a masters degree in special education and an autism certificate from Missouri State University, which I completed in 2009.
Every new step that God has taken me to has built on what He has previously prepared me for. While I don’t know the next step, I know His plan is the best. He is trustworthy.
What advice would you give a current student preparing for the workforce?
Don’t be in a hurry to get to the end. You never actually arrive. This is a journey. Live life while you are in academic training. Don’t sacrifice relationships, self-care, and an intimate relationship with Jesus for schoolwork.
Spend your time and money pursuing a degree that will end in a job. Keep your debt as low as possible–no debt is best, because it allows you the freedom to follow God’s plan and prevents unnecessary emotional and mental stress.
What would you look for if you were in a position to hire a new graduate?
I look for character. Are you able to work with others cooperatively? Will you be a positive, uplifting presence to the team? Do you have integrity? Are you on time? Do you put in a full day’s work? Are you willing to do the lowliest tasks without complaint, even if they are not in your job description? Are you teachable? Do you take directions and redirections well? Are you an initiator, a contributing member of the team? Will you fulfill the job requirements and even go a little beyond?