Emmaus Blog

Gina Tackett: 5 Year Special Education Teacher

Emmaus Homes - Tuesday, May 08, 2018


What similarities do you see between teaching and direct care?
As a teacher, you are guiding your students to learn new information or skills. It’s the same with direct care. A good portion of the day is working with individuals on gaining independence in a wide variety of categories. In Special Education, you’re required to hold, write, and implement IEP’s. Regular teachers follow the IEP’s. Emmaus has a similar tool called an individualized support plan (ISP). ISP’s dictate the care level and individual goals each person is working on. As a Direct Support Professional, you follow the plan and work with the consumers daily to achieve their desired goals that are outlined in their yearly plan.
What differences?
 Direct care encompasses so many things. You have a chance to learn new skills and learn a lot of medical information. Direct care has many titles; care provider, companion, “med-tech”,and part of a family. Teachers only follow portions of someone’s life, but with direct care you get to know every component of each person you work with over the span of many years. It fosters opportunities for more in depth relationships to build. You are always exposed to something new and different.
Compare teaching children with assisting adults.
It’s much the same. When you are teaching children, you should be creative and find various ways to reach the class. Direct support requires a lot of creativity and attempting to reach a primary goal through various means and ways. Everybody learns things differently and has different abilities, whether you have special needs or not.
How do you apply your teaching background to your daily work now?
The IEP’s are much like our ISP’s, so I recognized similar concepts in collecting information to include in writing plans. Any student with an IEP has individual goals each semester, just like our clients have “yearly” goals they work on. I also gained a lot of patience as a teacher and learned that I must teach and guide each person differently to see success. I continually try new things in new ways until a concept is mastered.
Teachers and DSPs aren’t known for their high pay. What benefits do you see in both?
In both fields, it is more about internal rewards instead of monetary compensation. It is great satisfaction to see the faces of the staff and the consumers as they achieve their own personal goals. The benefit of either career is a great sense of pride, joy, and accomplishment when you see the smiles on the client’s faces.
On the DSP level, you can work as much overtime as you like, which certainly helps boost the paychecks. As a teacher, there is no such thing as “OT”. At Emmaus, if you have a college degree you can apply for an RQM position. Residential Quality Managers have flexibility, but take on more responsibilities. You can get about the equivalent amount of time off work throughout the entire year as a teacher.
Compare your current schedule with your previous teaching schedule.
One of the jobs perks is how different this is. Teachers have set hours. A DSP has a wide variety of schedules to choose from and different locations to work in.
What brought you to Emmaus?
I have a passion for helping others. I also have a passion for individuals with disabilities. I taught for 5 years in both elementary and special education. I became complacent with the job, and over time started to feel as though I was never going to be able to achieve more than I already had in that setting. Emmaus had an administrative position that involved working with adults with developmental disabilities. I took a chance and it turned out to be the best career change I could have made. I have found my niche.
Why have you stayed at Emmaus?
I respect this organization and I love what I do! The most obvious reason I stay is because of the clients. They’ve become an extension of me and are my family. Emmaus is quite different now from when I started, and all the changes have been towards stabilization and advancement, which created growth and new career opportunities for many people. Emmaus is phenomenal for internal promotions. I personally have promoted many DSP’s into Home Manager roles, and it’s satisfying to see them flourish under my guidance. The ultimate reward has been molding a solid team and watching them obtain some pretty impressive things. I have been allowed to grow, challenge, change, and learn. I couldn’t ask for or expect anything more from a career. I am one of the lucky ones that is doing what they are meant to do!
Emmaus’ level of expectation is always high, pushing each person to do their best. They instill and expect that their employees will be honest, dependable, and hold themselves with high moral regards. They focus on our four Core Values: Collaboration, Customer Centered, Integrity, and Initiative. Also, even though Emmaus continues to grow and thrive, they do take personal interaction with employees to a new level. They have several committees that are made up of several different layers of employees within the organization to ensure every department’s voice is heard. They work hard at improving communication with all the employees throughout the company. They also send out surveys and request input from all employees. The upper management is so open to the employees that you are comfortable with speaking to your supervisor(s) about any concerns or issues you may have.
The teamwork around this agency is astounding. Any time I have a problem, I have literally over a dozen different people I can confer with to resolve issues. I can call any of my staff or managers, and they will graciously accept the request for assistance or ideas (as does my supervisor). My team is so comfortable with each other. They can turn to one another and try to resolve issues prior to bringing them to me. Knowing I have people I can count on means the world to me!
Lastly, the pay and benefits are comparable with other providers in the area. But with this position I have flexibility within my schedule, which is a huge benefit. Emmaus has a generous PTO accrual program that increases as your seniority builds. You can’t ignore the fact that Emmaus goes OUT OF ITS WAY to try to make all employees feels valued. I have never felt so valued and appreciated in any other job than I have here. We offer mission moment bonuses, we have a point award appreciation program, “praise emails”, and all the managers are great at offering positive feedback to their staff. We also get occasional appreciation luncheons and happy hours. They make sure you won’t go hungry around here!


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