The new head of Special Education, Tanya Browne, has come full circle in her career. The journalist-turned-educator started out in a Dallas ISD classroom in 1993. She later became a dean and associate principal before joining the Special Education department, first as supervisor of secondary programs and then director of curriculum and instruction.
Following a stint as special ed chief in Austin ISD, she’s back home and looking forward to making a good program even better. One goal: ensuring that special education students share in the everyday school activities that make learning fun.
“The district is making great strides in the area of special education. We are making improvements in the area of inclusion, making sure students are accessing the general education curriculum by being in the gen ed classroom,” Browne says.
“Our work and the district’s mission is seeing that (special education) students are included in all aspects of school life: that they know about extracurricular activities, are involved in field trips, graduation activities, and other things we might not normally think our students are able to access,” she says, adding that such experiences “help prepare them to graduate and go to school or go to work or access services in the community.”
Browne, a graduate of Justin F. Kimball High School, found her way into teaching by way of news reporting. With a journalism degree from UT Austin, she covered the education beat for the NBC affiliate in Waco for three years, visiting schools and diving into the issues surrounding education. Before long, convinced that education, not journalism, was her life’s work, she turned to Dallas ISD’s Alternative Certification program to help her get started in the classroom.
“Seeing the kids and all of the programs going on was just exciting,” she said. “When I decided to transition out of news, I knew exactly what I wanted to do, and that was education.”
Today, with two decades of experience as an educator, researcher, speaker and trainer under her belt, she welcomes the chance to contribute to the future of special education in Dallas ISD.
“As ED, one of my big opportunities is to serve my staff and provide leadership for them, to build a learning organization so that our staff can be prepared to support our schools,” she said.
Browne speaks passionately about the benefits of doing more to serve special education students. She wants educators and society to realize that, like all students, they want to learn. To be effective at teaching students across the spectrum of disabilities, she says educators have to be creative in the classroom and serve as advocates for their students, effort that is well worth the payoff.
“When you talk to families and they talk about the improvements they see in their children, when you see kids who have left school and they’re now gainfully employed, when you see their tangible, visible accomplishments, that’s what keeps us working so hard,” she said.