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Day motivated by the joy within her students

After 29 years of employment at Cayuga-Onondaga BOCES, Special Education Teacher Helen Day said the joy and respect her students display is what keeps her motivated.

Day, who started her career at BOCES as a substitute aide in 1993, originally had plans of being a business education teacher. However, after substitute teaching in Rich Hamberger’s class, she discovered a passion for special education.

“I spent two years as his aide while I finished my degree at SUNY Oswego. But while I was doing that, I realized that business education may not be my calling,” she said. “So, I went back and got my certification in special education and later a master’s in special education.

Over the years, Day has taught in several special education programs, including the Day Treatment program, which still holds a special place in her heart. But she has found a home in the district-based 8:1:1 program at Cato-Meridian.

So, what is the best part of coming to work each day in the 8:1:1 program?

“The kids. It’s really the kids,” she said. “All students are going to have bad days. But these kids, when they have good days, they are so good. They show kindness and respect, which is huge.”

Day said her goal is to support students both academically and emotionally with the intent to successfully return them back to general education with their peers.

“I am a firm believer in that. My goal is to always get my students back into general education as much as possible. And we are the support system for them to be able to do that,” she said.

When asked what has kept Day with Cayuga-Onondaga BOCES for nearly three decades, she said a combination of her colleagues, students and the families she gets to interact with. Day also said she enjoys the opportunity to change the perceptions surrounding special education and BOCES.

“I was at Owasco Elementary for 18 years. When I first started there, people were a little leery of students with emotional difficulties,” she said. “But once they got to know the class, we really became a part of the school. I really love that I get to project positive attitudes about our programs.”

In her free time, Day enjoys taking short trips with family and friends. She and her husband also remain active in the community, as they support organizations like their local fire department and American Legion.

“I just try to find things to help me destress. One thing I can say is teaching can be stressful. So, I’ve found different hobbies over the years to help maintain that balance,” she said.