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The Saratoga Falcon

The Saratoga Falcon

The Saratoga Falcon

New CBI teacher aims to encourage inclusivity

Angela Tan
CBI teacher Michelle Nguyen shows students how to order food and behave in public in preparation for when they visit Big Burger Basin.

Having grown up in the multicultural community of north San Jose, new Community-Based Instruction (CBI) teacher Michelle Nguyen loves surrounding herself with diverse groups of students who are eager to learn.

Nguyen joined the school this year as a teacher and case manager within the CBI program, an individualized special education program that aims to build self-responsibility and support functional skills in students with varying abilities. As a case manager, Nguyen ensures that students who have an Individualized Education Program (IEP) receive the services they need. 

“One of the exceptional things about CBI is the inclusive community that provides an opportunity to help students build lifelong skills while learning academic content,” Nguyen said.

Nguyen earned her bachelor’s degree in occupational therapy at San Jose State University. She then pursued a master’s degree in education there with an emphasis in special education after deciding to narrow down her career focus to special needs. She wrote her master’s thesis on augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) and received her extensive needs credential from SJSU as well, which authorized her to teach K-12 students with moderate to severe disabilities such as autism and deaf-blindness.

Nguyen said her passion for teaching was ignited during her first job experience as a youth swim coach. 

“It helped me experience how rewarding it is to teach someone a lifelong skill and make an impact in their lives,” she said.

Having discovered her interest in helping children, Nguyen later worked in the Early Start program, a federally funded California service providing intervention for children with developmental and intellectual disabilities. For a short period, she also worked as a parent educator at an elementary school and then in postsecondary education before finally moving here to teach.

In her job, Nguyen ensures that students have access to supportive community learning. She guides them through fun, interactive lessons that simulate everyday tasks such as catching the bus, crossing the street or shopping at a grocery store. 

“The students are still working on their independence, so our job is to find their abilities and strengths and help them learn in the classroom and also in the community,” Nguyen said.

Alongside the other CBI teachers on her team, Nguyen plans lessons that can readily adapt to the unpredictability of student schedules.

For example, many CBI students also attend some general education classes with the majority of students. Their schedules usually align with the Red and Blue Day block periods, but they typically only have two or three mainstream courses. Some of Nguyen’s students go to Spanish 2, Geometry, Orchestra or Choir, and then return to the CBI classroom for English, Math or to work on socio-emotional goals. 

Nguyen emphasizes that CBI students always come to school excited and ready to learn. They also love to interact with peers, which she said is helpful for actively developing their communication, personal responsibility and socio-emotional skills.

“If you see a CBI student in your class, I would encourage you to help them as much as you can and treat them as a friend,” Nguyen said. “Invite them to your social outings because they love being social, just as much as you guys.”

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