While earning his master’s degree in special education at Buffalo State, celebrated teacher David Lazerson encountered a professor who profoundly influenced his approach to special ed. In the anecdote recounted in American Teachers: Heroes in the Classroom, author Katrina Fried describes the classroom scene in which a professor persuaded Lazerson that there is no fundamental difference between people with special needs and their teachers. That insight shaped his career.
On Thursday, February 27, at 4:30 p.m. in E. H. Butler Library 210, Lazerson—known as “Dr. Laz”—will come to Buffalo State to help the campus celebrate the Year of the Teacher. Lazerson will deliver a presentation that will focus on his experiential approach to teaching individuals with special needs using the expressive arts, especially drama and music therapy. The campus community and the public are welcome to attend.
“Dr. Laz exemplifies so many things we celebrate about teachers,” said Wendy Paterson, dean of the School of Education. “Over his entire career, he has excited and inspired students to learn and to share their talents with others. He has brought passion, creativity, and joy to classrooms all over the world.”
Lazerson taught special education in the Buffalo Public Schools early in his career, where he was recognized as “Teacher of the Year.” Later, in New York City, he was instrumental in bringing together a community in which racial conflict resulted in two deaths and almost 200 injuries. With other community leaders, Lazerson developed Project CURE, a multi-ethnic band that is just one of many examples of Lazerson’s use of music to build bridges between people.
That effort continues at the Quest Center, a special-education school in Broward County, Florida, where Lazerson runs a multi-faceted hands-on music program. He received the Distinguished Alumnus Award from Buffalo State at the 2007 commencement ceremonies.
According to Welcome Books, the publisher of American Teachers: Heroes in the Classroom, author Fried sought 50 people who are exemplary teachers. Fried combed through many sources—award-winning teachers, widely recognized teachers, strongly recommended teachers. However, she also had a personal criterion: at the end of each interview, was she wishing that she would have had this person as her teacher?
Lazerson made the cut, and not only for his many awards, including being inducted into the National Teachers Hall of Fame. During his visit to Buffalo State, he will share the motivational strategies he has developed and shared through his books and presentations. He will visit a professional development school site, meet with teachers and Buffalo State students who work with children with special needs, talk to exceptional ed classes, and speak to invited guests during a special presentation focusing on teaching students with autism.
Note: Faculty members who would like to bring a class to the 4:30 presentation, please contact Tamara Horstman-Riphahn. RSVPs in general are encouraged but not required.