Leaders@ED: Alexa Posny, Assistant Secretary for Special Education and Rehabilitative Services

Alexa Posny has had 23 jobs. While she never envisioned a specific career path, every position she held was a stepping stone towards her current position as the Assistant Secretary for Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS) at the U.S. Department of Education, an appointment that allows Posny to draw from all her experiences in education to improve the lives of infants, toddlers, children, youth and adults with disabilities.

As an undergraduate student at the University of Wisconsin, Posny double majored in psychology and sociology. Yet she took 15 credits of education in her senior year, knowing that education “was what she ultimately wanted to do.”

Alexa Posny with a group of Special Olympics athletes

Assistant Secretary Alexa Posny at the 2011 Special Olympics

Coinciding with Posny’s college graduation and her decision to begin a master’s degree in behavioral disabilities, Congress started considering the Education for All Handicapped Children Act.  A year later, in 1975, Congress passed Public Law 94-142, the Federal law providing students with disabilities a right to a free appropriate public education, otherwise known as FAPE. At the time, public schools accommodated only one in five children with disabilities, and many states explicitly excluded children who were deaf, blind, emotionally disturbed or intellectually disabled.

Posny would go on to teach students who were emotionally disturbed in middle and high schools and students with learning disabilities at the elementary level. She incorporated both academic and behavioral interventions in her teaching. She also visited the homes of all her students to make sure their total needs were being met and to establish a relationship with their parents.

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