My name is Lisa Cagle and I will be a second year law student at Cumberland School of Law in Birmingham, Alabama. While I am originally from North Dakota, I am excited to be living in Alabama and enjoying the warm weather year round. I may not have been born here, but I got here as fast as I could.
My background is not your typical law student background. I have a Bachelor’s of Science in Chemical Engineering from UCLA. However, life had other plans for me, and I became a teacher in 2008. During my first year teaching, I read an inspirational book by Wes Stafford titled Too Small To Ignore that changed the way I viewed teaching. In this book, Stafford stresses the importance of focusing on children and their unique needs and not waiting until a person has reached adulthood to begin to consider them a quality member of society. Shortly after that, I met my first child with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Finding unique ways to teach that child was an amazing experience for me. As a result, I spent many of my continuing education hours learning about special needs and how to design a classroom setting and modify my teaching style to accommodate children with special needs. Over the course of eight years of teaching, I had the privilege to work with several children with varying needs and the honor to help educate families on special needs and the accommodations and therapies available to help these children learn and thrive in a structured school environment.
After several years of working with children and families, I decided to go to law school to enable me to continue to work with families in ways that I was unable to as a teacher. I desire to do more than recommend other resources and professionals to families in need. I would like to be one of the resources and professionals that a family can turn to. This is also one of the reasons why I am excited to intern at Alabama Appleseed this summer. Appleseed has a reputation for creating change to better the lives of people in Alabama and I am excited to be a part of this.
My project this summer will be the school to prison pipeline. According to the American Bar Association (ABA), the school to prison pipeline is the metaphor for the student disciplinary issues at school that result in students leaving school and entering the criminal justice system. The ABA has done research to discover that a disproportionate number of minority students and students with special needs are dismissed from school, resulting in a disproportionate number of minority students and students with special needs in the criminal justice system. As a former teacher, this issue is near and dear to my heart. I have received training on ways to help children with special needs adjust to a classroom setting and believe that all children deserve a chance for a quality education, not just the ones who have the ability to conform to a “typical classroom setting.” I am honored and thrilled to working as an intern for Alabama Appleseed and am looking forward to continuing Appleseed’s work this summer.