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A Passion for Fairness Motivates Special Education Supervisor at NHA

Haley Brink  |  September 08, 2020

Anthony Laingren never expected to become a special education supervisor when he started teaching at Aspire Charter Academy ​​​​​​​after graduating from college. In fact, special education wasn’t his plan at all, though his path quickly shifted in his first year at Aspire, leading to a six-year stint as a teacher and a master’s degree in special education from Ball State University.  

“I have always had trouble accepting when things weren’t fair for everyone, and I spent a lot of my time ensuring and fighting for things to be fair for my students in those first months at Aspire,” said Laingren. “I fell in love with the job because I wanted things to be fair and my kids to be successful, like everyone else. It’s really the reason I’ve never left special education.”

After six years, Laingren became a special education supervisor at National Heritage Academies (NHA), which allowed him to support the implementation of specially designed instruction and instructional supports in schools. During his time as a supervisor, he left to work for a local district as a local director of special education, though he soon returned.

“While that job was hard, it was fulfilling,” said Laingren. “But NHA just does it better. There exists the idea within staff at NHA that things must be fair for kids and kids will need resources, so we prepare to give them resources. ‘Do the right thing always’ resounds here, and it doesn’t always outside of NHA.”

During the pandemic, he has acted as a voice for special education on the virtual team at NHA to ensure that students with disabilities are fully supported. Whether an NHA school’s model is remote, virtual, or hybrid, he mentioned that he works to augment how to support schools as they change the way they do business and ensure compliance in a platform they never considered providing.

“He has worked to develop videos to help guide our team through the use of certain digital tools,” said Rukshana Ilahi, director of special education. “He’s been a good partner to ensure that we are thinking things through from the various states we serve.”

Though his favorite part of his job has changed over the years, he now appreciates the opportunity to grow people in their roles and give them resources to perform their jobs better and focus on efficiency. This includes the creation and maintenance of professional development delivered during onboarding, and then two or three times throughout the year to continue growth and development. He also creates and provides professional development specific to our schools or regions as identified by data-driven problem solving and building-level improvement plans.  

“I have worked a great deal with administrators to drive quality in our service to students while also trying to provide some work-life balance,” said Laingren. “Knowing that work-life balance is a part of providing great service, it makes sense to ensure our teams can build efficiency in what they do and only do what drives great services. It’s my favorite because it gets down in the weeds and really looks at how everyone does the job, gives everyone a chance to reflect on how they can do that work better, and how they can do that work without overwhelming the system.”