By Sally Mesarosh, for wranglernews.com
Sarah Boyle is bringing both professional and personal experience to her new role as director of special education at Tempe Union High School District.
She began her professional career in business and accounting in Silicon Valley, but after years of watching her son, Michael, now 27, struggle with his autism in school, she decided to make more of an impact by furthering her education and becoming a special-education teacher.
“I went back to school to help families with autistic students,” Boyle said. “I wanted to do all the things my son’s teachers weren’t doing. People need to see all sides of the whole child. I wanted to eventually become an administrator and make changes.”
She worked as a special-education teacher for about a decade and then went on to earn an educational doctorate in organizational leadership with an emphasis in special education. Boyle served as an academic specialist at the district level in Chandler and as an adjunct professor for an online university inspiring future leaders. She became a member of the Arizona Council of Exceptional Children and the Council of Administrators of Special Education.
Boyle began her current job as director at TUHSD on July 1.
TJ Snyder, assistant principal at Desert Vista High School, said the school is excited to have Boyle join the Tempe Union family.
“She brings a calming, caring and rational demeanor to our special-education program,” he said. “We are lucky to have her.”
Chalene Baxter, dean of students for San Marcos Elementary in the district in which Boyle worked previously, agreed that Tempe Union is fortunate to have Boyle.
“Since I have known Sarah, she has always had students and parents in the center of every decision she has made,” Baxter said. “Dr. Boyle is a true servant and leader in the area of special education. She takes her passion to teaching parents and inspiring students to become the best they can.”
Boyle emphasized the need for constant communication with families when dealing with autistic students.
“Schools need to make sure the relationship between their schools and their families are solid,” she said. “That’s so important.”
One thing Boyle said she is concerned about is the current shortage of special-education staff and homebound teachers. She said she will do all she can to attract quality workers to the district and once they are hired, she’ll provide much needed classroom training, support and resources.
“It’s sad to hear that there are less and less special-education staff and less of a pool to draw from,” Boyle said. “We have three types of potential workers. Students who are earning their degrees, parents who want to work the same hours as their children who attend school, and retired people who want to give back to the community. Students are waiting for teachers.”
Boyle likes to share what she finds as the positive aspects of working with autistic students.
“First, I like to see a student’s lightbulb come on,” she said. “I have a lot of fun with my son, who constantly thinks outside the box. He encourages me to be more creative and bring in hands-on activities. Being with my son just expands my creativity and we have a good time.”
For those interested in special education as a career, Boyle recommends the program at Rio Salado College, where students can earn an associate’s degree while working and then continue on to earn a bachelor’s degree.
Boyle is gearing up for a Positive Outcomes Transition Series, which are monthly events in which parents can talk to professionals and not be afraid to ask questions.
“My ultimate goal is to increase the positive communication about our students, to celebrate their victories and share what’s going on,” she said.
More information on working with special-education students at TUHSD: tempeunion.org.