For Tyler Lange, ’15, being a special education teacher is his way of helping the community he grew up in and its young people.
“I thought that pursuing a career as a teacher would be a great way for me to contribute to society, and help the next generation and enlighten young minds,” said Lange, who is in his fifth year of teaching at Henry Elementary School in Rialto.
It wasn’t his plan to teach at Rialto, but when Lange got a job at Henry Elementary School, he was happy to be making a difference in his hometown.
“I think it’s better to teach where you grew up because I can relate to the students a little bit better,” said Lange. “I know that I can serve as an example and as a role model for students in this community to show that I came from the same community, and I was able to get an education and get a good successful career.”
He said as a teacher, he wants to be a role model to students.
“I want to contribute to students who look just like me and had similar experiences, so as a teacher I’m able to advocate for education and be on the front lines in really working in the community and helping people,” Lange said.
He said he focused on teaching after working as an instructional aide in a special needs class.
“I really enjoyed it. I figured it’d be a natural fit for somebody, especially as a sociology major, who already had that interest in working with other people and having a commitment to community service,” said Lange. “I do love being able to make that impact.”
He chose special education “because students with special needs are often misunderstood and very underestimated. I think a lot of people don’t truly have an idea of what potential that special education students have, so I wanted to serve as somebody that could help reach those students reach that potential.”
Lange said a lot of special needs students have so much innate ability that his job as a teacher is to help those students realize that capability and get that capability out of them.
“I want to give students with special needs an opportunity,” Lange said. “I want to give them a chance at having a good education. The same chance that every student is entitled to.”
But he faced one of his biggest challenges from the COVID-19 pandemic, which forced schools to switch from face-to-face classes to online and virtual classes. But it wasn’t the technical aspect.
Lange said he was already an advocate for the use of technology in the classroom, and had been utilizing Google classroom for his students to access and submit assignments as he essentially had a paperless classroom.
“I was fortunate that some of the really detrimental effects of transitioning to virtual learning were mitigated a bit because my students were very prepared for that setup,” Lange said.
But the pandemic made him realize he had to be more cognizant of some of the other things that factor into a student’s home life and family structure.
“Because the pandemic affected every one of us in a certain type of way – people lost family members, people lost jobs – I, as a teacher, had to learn how to prioritize mental health as much as I prioritize academic progress,” Lange said. “I had to learn to really incorporate mental health strategies into my teaching a lot more and to make sure that my students were doing well not just academically but within their mental well-being as well.”
Lange said he interacted with students more. He took time out of every class to engage with his students and talk about non-school related subjects such as sports and other topics.
“A lot of my students, myself included, were interested in anime,” he said. “We were interested in video games so we would just talk about those things that students are interested in, just to take their minds off of a lot of the drama and a lot of the other things going on in the world.”
Lange said he and his students still do that now that they are back to an in-person setting.
Along with teaching, he has served in after-school programs as a tutor and basketball coach/referee. He also coordinates his school site’s social media accounts.
For his work as a teacher and in helping others, Lange was recognized in December by Assembly Majority Leader Eloise Gómez Reyes (D-San Bernardino) at the fifth annual 30 under 30 awards ceremony. Lange, who was one of 13 CSUSB alumni and students honored at the ceremony, was described as a talented, innovative and passionate teacher. He was recently recognized by the Rialto Unified School District during distance learning.
Lange, who has a bachelor’s degree in sociology from Cal State San Bernardino, says going to college was always something in his plans and credits CSUSB for helping him not only as a student, but after graduation.
“CSUSB helped me personally and professionally. Obviously having a college degree did open a lot of doors and helped me find employment right when I got out of school, and it did prepare me with the necessary skills to contribute to a work environment,” Lange said.
“But personally, Cal State San Bernardino was able to benefit me because going to school in such a diverse environment was able to give me the skills, and help me grow as a person and understand different people, different cultures, different ideologies,” he said. "So I definitely think that my experience at Cal State San Bernardino helped me mature as a person and shape me into the man that I am today.”
He said one of the major experiences that contributed to that was in his freshman year, when he was living on campus at Serrano Village in the freshman dorms.
“I lived in Joshua Hall, and that really gave me the full college experience. I was able to really feel as though I was a member of the campus community. I was able to establish a lot of friendships, a lot of great relationships with people that I still hold to this day,” Lange said. “My experience helped me grow as a man. It helped me grow and mature and to just get a little bit of that experience living on my own and just being responsible for my own decisions and not having my parents always there.”
Lange said he had a number of mentors while at CSUSB, including Lucia Zarate, an admissions counselor he worked under for two years.
“She really helped give me great work experience and great guidance during my time there,” Lange said. But he was also grateful for the mentoring he received from faculty in the sociology department, including lecturer Dawn Howey, associate professor Jose Munoz, professor Mary Texeira and professor emeritus Olga Bright, who retired in 2019.
Lange said he has a lot of great memories as a CSUSB student, but he added that one of the things that surprised him was how much he enjoyed going to a local university.
“A lot of people dream of going to college very far away, going to the other side of the country, going wherever and I went basically in my own backyard,” Lange said. “So, I was surprised at how much I enjoyed my time and … how much it felt like I was away if that makes sense because I was in a different environment and I was able to better immerse myself within that environment.”
He also has advice for future CSUSB students – get involved.
“As a Cal State San Bernardino student there are multiple ways that you can get involved. They’re not just limited to joining a club or an organization even though those are great options. You can also work on campus, you can pursue an internship within a department,” Lange said. “For me, I was able to intern at the admissions office and that really did help me immerse myself within the campus community and maximize my college experience.”