Memoirs of a Special Ed Teacher: Gene Thibeault ’68
It takes a special person to teach special education, and, if you put your heart into it for 30+ years, like Gene Thibeault ’68 has, you’ll have many frustrating, uplifting, and poignant stories to tell—enough, in fact, to fill a book. Thibeault’s recent memoir, It’s Not Special: a 32-Year Journey in Special Education, chronicles much of his life and work and includes a chapter on his experience at Keene State.
After graduation he joined VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America) and was sent to the Hawaiian island of Oahu to teach in a Hawaiian and Samoan village. As he continued to move around, he returned to Keene and taught at Dublin Elementary school, then went off to the University of Northern Colorado where he received an MA in rehab counseling. Then it was off to California, where he landed a special ed teaching position in a very poor neighborhood in Oakland in 1971. “I moved to a new school in Oakland teaching the multi-disabled,” Thibeault said. “The following year, I taught one of the first public school classes for the autistic. My wife, new daughter, and I then moved to the California gold country where I taught classes for the mentally disabled for five years and then moved on to teach adapted physical education for 20 years. I worked with children of all disabilities, and ages from 3 to 21.”
“I wrote this self-published book after being encouraged by many friends who enjoyed my remembrances,” he said. “It is an autobiography focusing on my career, but not limited to just teaching. I also became an ultra-marathon runner to help combat stress.”