Chanel-Leilani Ortiz

Degree: Master’s in Special Education

College/School: College of Arts, Sciences & Education School of Education

Kindergarten teacher Chanel-Leilani Ortiz teaches children at Broward County’s Hollywood Central Elementary who are on the autism spectrum. She enjoys finding ways to appeal to each child to help them learn.

Looking to build on her experience, Chanel-Leilani enrolled in the online Master of Science in Special Education program and counted on Professor Patricia Barbetta as a mentor.

Chanel-Leilani used valuable lessons from the program to help one student known for frequent outbursts to become more sociable and to be successful in class. All it took was developing a system of positive reinforcements that helped the child earn the chance to be first in line during dismissal.

When she noticed that some students wouldn’t touch flash cards that could help them improve their vocabulary, she had them learn using a tablet computer they loved interacting with.

Chanel-Leilani was also featured in The Autism Notebook, where she shared tips with educators on how to help students celebrate the change of seasons and how to use visual cues to communicate the meaning of language and grammar with students.

For these efforts and more, Chanel-Leilani was named the 2015 Teacher of the Year at Hollywood Central Elementary.

After graduation, Chanel-Leilani plans to continue teaching at Hollywood Central Elementary, and to become a professor at FIU. In the long term, she plans to open her own center for children with autism and their families, a place where they can learn free from judgment in a supportive, inclusive environment.