First year Gwinnett teacher: He gave up accounting to teach special education. Kids need role models.

Many people fret over the future of teaching in the face of dwindling enrollment in teacher prep programs. Teachers themselves increasingly report reluctance to urge others to consider the profession due to the challenges. None of that dissuaded Reginald Hairston, a 39-year-old former accountant who begins teaching Monday in a special education classroom at Grayson High School in Gwinnett County.

Hairston grew up in New York, the son of two special education teachers. He studied accounting at Morehouse College, working for United Parcel Service, Georgia-Pacific and NAPA. But a few years ago, he could no longer resist the pull toward the classroom, attending Georgia Gwinnett College to obtain a degree in special education and a teacher’s certificate. Hairston was part of an original cohort of five students in a pilot program between Georgia Gwinnett College and Gwinnett County Public Schools that enabled him to work full-time as a paraprofessional, including at Grayson in the Autism IV unit. “These experiences with the students, faculty and administration coupled with the course work provided by Georgia Gwinnett College School of Education were invaluable to prepare me for my current role as Inter Related Resource Algebra I teacher,” he says.

But hear the story from Hairston himself in this video interview  with me and AJC multimedia journalist Erica Hernandez. You will be delighted that such a bright guy chose to become a Georgia teacher:

Reader Comments 0

14 comments
MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

I regret that my thoughts regarding the spiritual element of education, which I see reflected in the beings of both Ms. Reeves and Mr. Hairston, were not allowed to be shown to the general public, but only to myself.  I regret this not for myself, but for the perceptions shared, which I believe would have further shown the direction that public education in Georgia should seek.

altAJC2
altAJC2

There's no teacher shortage, as knows every reader with a niece who's applied to the local school district. Nevertheless, the union peddles this same canard at the opening of every new school year.

Come Thanksgiving that niece will still be looking.

Beach Bound2020
Beach Bound2020

@altAJC2 Something must be going REALLY wrong at that niece's interviews and/or that niece is not willing to work where the jobs are and is waiting for one of the "good" schools to offer her a job.  Districts are desperate for special education teachers especially in Title I schools.  That niece may need some interview and career counseling.

Outspoken Mom
Outspoken Mom

@Beach Bound2020 @altAJC2 Union?  What state are you in?  GA does not have a teacher's union.  This is a right to work state.  Gwinnett had a job fair last year for over 1000 teachers.  Your "facts" are incorrect.

kaelyn
kaelyn

He's a gem. I pray that he stays in the classroom and doesn't get tapped for an administrative position too quickly. We need more teachers like him.

gapeach101
gapeach101

I admire any special education teacher.

AJC  Get Schooled
AJC Get Schooled

Folks, this is a great new Gwinnett teacher. Take a look at the video.

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

Maureen, thank you for this series of interviews of these outstanding first year teachers.  I am impressed and gratified to hear their voices and their thoughts.  I, myself, did not become a teacher until I was 27 years old, having spent my early and mid twenties working for New York University and earning credit there for my bachelors' degree in English.  I have believed that that life I led in NYC in the Village enhanced my understanding of others and of life, itself, in depth, and, thus, made me a better classroom teacher for 35 years in Georgia, than I would have been without those years of learning and working outside of education before I graduated from college in NYC at age 27.

MaureenDowney
MaureenDowney moderator

@BurroughstonBroch Given that Mr. Hairston has already been a parapro for two years while getting his degree, including one year at Grayson, he knows what the profession is all about. And his parapro experience has also been in the area in which he is now teaching, special ed. I think it's the folks with the least classroom contact prior to entering the field who are most likely to leave.
He also is a longtime community sports coach so he has a lot of experience with kids.

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

@BurroughstonBroch @MaureenDowney @BurroughstonBroch  Sp ed is tremendously challenging. Being a parapro does NOT prepare you--quite different from being the teacher of record.  A high school autism class will be a tremendous challenge.

After saying that, I hope he is able to hang on and flourish, as well as his students.

Michael Williams
Michael Williams

I met this guy at the new teacher induction for special educators. Nice guy. \U0001f642 Gwinnett is the place to be for a special education teacher!

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

Why is "Gwinnett the place to be"...?