BINGHAMTON, NY (WIVT/WBGH) – February’s Golden Apple Award is going to a local teacher who answered the call when she was needed most.

Shannon LaBarre works at Broome-Tioga BOCES with students who struggle to communicate.

The kids started the day by playing a word association game.

Matching the word with the correct picture.

Shannon LaBarre says, “I went into education because I struggled so much in school. And I never wanted a child to feel the way that I felt struggling in school.”

Shannon LaBarre teaches special education in the Oak Tree program at BOCES.
Oak Tree is a program for students on the autism spectrum, and LaBarre’s students are all non-verbal.

LaBarre says, “You’re seeing them grow, where they are, you’ve got to remember these kids are third through fifth grade but scoring in the twelve to sixteen month level.”
LaBarre says, “I’m their voice here. I am their voice here for six hours a day, and I fight for each and every one of them.”

LaBarre originally received her education degree in K through sixth grade, and had no interest in special education.

A turning point was the birth of her son Easton, who struggles with Apraxia of Speech.

LaBarre says, “so he knows what he wants to say in his brain, but it’s hard to get to his mouth. And, traveling so much with him and doing so many things with him, I just wanted to fight more for him.”

Ilene Monico is the principal of the Oak Tree program and says that six years ago, she was in a staffing pinch, so she called LaBarre last minute to substitute, and the rest is history.

Principal of the Oak Tree program Ilene Monico says, “She is a very positive individual, willing to think outside the box, take those risks, she does advocate for every single child in her classroom. She goes above and beyond to meet their needs, by really individualizing her lessons for the students.”

LaBarre has eight students in her class, and five teacher’s aids.
She says each child has their own personalized schedule to cater to their needs.
“LaBarre says each student and every day comes with a new set of challenges. Sometimes in the classroom, she’s a nurse, she’s an administrator, a construction worker, she says that’s all tied together with being a teacher.”
LaBarre started off as someone who didn’t necessarily want to be special education teacher to now being one of the most sought after people at BOCES.