Spencer Coleman

Spencer Coleman. Photo by Paul Neevel.

“I like special education so much,” says Spencer Coleman, who has worked for three years as a behavioral assistant in the Bethel Community Transition Network (BCTN), a Bethel School District program that provides life-skills training beyond high school until age 21 to students with intellectual disabilities. “It involves learning about individual students more than pushing a particular curriculum. I like being there for the students.” Coleman is entering a masters of special education program at the University of Oregon this fall. His father, Lionel Coleman, who played football for the UO in the late 1960s, then for the L.A. Rams, is now retired from his own career in special education. Spencer himself excelled in football and basketball at South Eugene High School, and went on to play basketball at Eastern Arizona Junior College, the University of Montana, and Northwest Christian University in Eugene, then with semi-professional teams in Darwin and Shepparton, Australia. “It was great,” he says. “I was introduced to aboriginal culture and got to see ‘the bush.’ I came back home for three weeks and got my first education job. I was a teacher’s assistant, working one-on-one with kids who needed extra behavioral support.” On his next visit to Eugene, a year later, his dad informed him of a job opportunity at BCTN, and he canceled his plan to return to Australia. “I already knew about kids with various types of behavioral disabilities,” he notes. “Being raised by a special ed teacher helps. The kind of demeanor needed in this field is patience and understanding. The kids lack in communication abilities, but they’re often very smart.” BCTN students prepare for the world of work by volunteering at local agencies such as Food for Lane County, Greenhill Humane Society and NextStep Recycling. “After graduation, I’ll be a special ed teacher,” Coleman concludes. “I hope to set up my own program to push for the evolution of the learner.”

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