Danube Eichenger

Danube Eichenger

When you’re looking for a job with excitement and possibilities, do you think of teaching first? Danube Eichinger took a non-traditional route to become a teacher: she went through “Hollywood.” The high-school special education teacher says that, while in college at UC San Diego, she took a few courses in teacher preparation, including a fieldwork course, which piqued her interest in the field. However, upon graduating, she got into something completely different: working for a talent agency.

In her first career, Danube worked for agents for television and “feature lit” but wasn’t enjoying the work. She was unhappy, and felt her coworkers weren’t warm or personable. She always thought of teaching, she enjoyed working with kids, and many of her relatives, including her mother, were teachers. And so she made a decision. Since the implementation of SB 1777 in California had incentivized smaller class sizes, when Danube began looking for work it was simpler for a beginning teacher to obtain a permit. She seized this opportunity and began her teaching career in a 5th grade general education Gifted and Talented Program.

Meanwhile, after a number of years of teaching, with time off to start a family, the economy had shifted. Now there were more applicants for teaching positions, and more competition. Danube’s husband worked at California State University, Los Angeles, and so she was familiar with the programs available there. At social events she would find herself talking to professors about the advantages of a special education classroom: smaller class sizes, getting to know your students on an individual basis, more available positions. It was then that she decided to join the university, and specifically the intern program, pursuing a degree in special education.

Danube’s job as an intern was working in a continuation school for students with problem behaviors. She called the experience, “eye-opening,” and at first it was a very challenging environment, especially for a teacher new to special education. But through her hard work and dedication, Danube says that the school has changed, and it is now a program for credit recovery, for students hoping to earn degrees. She says with the help of her principal she has been able to construct a program of collaborative and pull out classes to meet the specific needs of students through a “balanced spectrum” of opportunities. Her work has been so successful that this year Danube was voted “Teacher of the Year.”

About the intern program, Danube says that her experience was wonderful and cites the support she received as being one of the main reasons why. The program is “hugely supportive,” she says, with lots of mentors who were very knowledgeable and so could help with any question or concern. She was grateful for someone to rely on, to guide her, especially with her job being at a continuation school where burnout can be high. Her mentor, she felt, helped her find and meet the standards of the community, which allowed her to really be an advocate for her students. Danube also mentioned the collaboration as an important feature of the intern program. She cited the opportunities working with professionals as incredibly helpful, and felt that aspect, specifically, leads to one of the ultimate goals for teachers in special education: the best placements and overall services for students.