Project: Orlando Works - Orange County Public Schools ESE Transition Teacher Akeem Bethea On Ensuring That His Students Are Prepared For Employment
Diversity is more than ethnicity it’s about people with disabilities having good representation too in the employment world.”
In this installment of the Project: Orlando Works photo series, we spoke with Akeem Bethea, ESE Transition Teacher at Orange County Public Schools.
Read more to learn about how he is instilling the youth in his class with basic skills that will prepare them for the real world.
Article by Brianna Toawicha Photos by Lennyn Garcia
“The reason why I got involved with this industry is because there is a need for people with disabilities to get employment training. For every challenge represented there is also an employment outcome, so we help set goals and meet these outcomes. When the parents find out that their child or student can get a job and keep one that’s mind-blowing for them, so for me, that’s what it’s all about. You’re actually changing what they thought could never be and you’re making it a reality for them.” As an ESE transition teacher, Bethea expresses that you must have the passion for wanting to genuinely help the kids you’re working with to succeed and see positive outcomes within the students. He shares when he knew that what he does now was his passion and why he chose to work for OCPS.
“I was in a management role for a place that provided support for people with disabilities. Once I started doing that, I realized that for one, sitting at a desk doing paperwork all day is not for me, but both of my parents were educators, so it’s always been instilled in me to educate, to be there for someone, and to help cheer someone on and help them believe in themselves in a way that they don’t know. What I saw 6 years ago was that there was a big gap between the skills that these students have, as far as being readily employed and for job retention, so I figured in order to ingrain these skills into the students I need to go and get a job with Orange County Public Schools. Bethea makes it clear that he is fulfilled each and every day at his job, not only that but the work that he and the teachers with OCPS do make a huge difference in the community. He shares more on his favorite story from his work as an ESE transition teacher and the impact their work has on the students. “There was a parent who expressed to me her concerns. She was told that her son wouldn’t be able to do certain tasks, like talk at a certain age, etc. I told her, not only will your child get the training here but there’s a very likely chance that she is going to get a job and she broke out in tears cause she’s thinking this is going to be something I’m going to have to be concerned about all of my life, that I have to take care of my son. We look at the outcomes where the students are staying employed at their jobs, there’s something attached to making your own income and doing for yourself that makes everybody feel proud and that’s something that we can help provide for these students.”
Bethea has years of experience working in his industry. He gives invaluable advice to job seekers looking to find a job in education. “We always joke around that if you’re going to be in this industry you have to have the heart to do it, you can’t just be a person that’s obviously in it for the money because that’s not a lot we’re in education. But, you have to be a person that’s willing to get in and do the work with these students, so you can see the benefit. If you’re not willing to do that it’s not worth being in it because for one you’re setting yourself up for a lot of frustration and you’re setting the students up for failure.” Akeem Bethea instills lessons in his students that they can apply in their lives beyond school. Bethea and the ESE transition teachers at OCPS make a lasting impact in these students’ lives by simply teaching employment skills.