During his first year in high school at La Jolla Country Day School, Grant learned that he had “a unique skill and talent for helping people.” It stuck.
Fast forward 22 years. Grant earned multiple degrees and credentials from Trinity University, UCSD, UCR, and Harvard University, spent 14 years as a Special Ed teacher, and then chose to bring it all back home to his high school alma mater. He’s now doing the good work he was destined for.
Q. Looking back at where you were when you started this journey, where did you think or hope it would lead you?
A. In high school, I was never great at basketball but played on the novice team in 9th grade for fun. A teammate’s brother played as an athlete on our local Special Olympics basketball team. The coach quit as the season started, leaving the Special Olympics athletes unable to play without a coach. My teammate and I both stepped up as the head coaches for the entire season that year. I continued coaching through all four years, but it was really during that first year that I learned I had a unique skill and passion for helping people. I now have a Master’s degree in teaching and was a special education teacher for 14 years.
I started teaching special education as a middle school English and social studies co-teachers. The school I worked at the time was chosen to be the district’s center-based program for students with autism. I worked very well with students on the spectrum, so they offered me the program director's role. I was at that school for six years until my wife and I moved to Denver. In Denver, I moved to teach a similar district-center-based program in the district’s high school social-emotional center-based program. It was a great experience, and I did the job for eight years.
Now I have come full circle, working back at the high school I attended.
Q. What difference did your experience at UCR University Extension make to your life path and career goals?
A. The program provided me with the opportunity to study while juggling my professional and personal obligations. Using technology to bring people together in the classroom, getting to know the instructor, participating in peer discussions, and receiving one-on-one support all from home. Technology brings people together in the classroom.
Q. What are you doing now?
A. I now work as an Educational Therapist at the private high school I graduated from in 2001. It’s very rewarding to come back to where it all began. My experience working with students with learning differences was helpful. My new role required me to learn a different skill set. The program UCR University Extension offered in Educational Therapy was perfect to give me the training I needed to help students grow and learn in a one-on-one environment to build their executive functions and reinforce academic concepts. Educational therapists take a more all-around approach with kids who have problems with learning and thinking that goes deeper.
Depending on the processing problems that need help, educational therapy uses different kinds of interventions. Educational therapy's wide range of intensive, custom-made interventions can help people with learning disabilities and other problems with learning.
Q. What career (or other) advice would you give to students or graduates looking to move into your industry?
A. UCR University Extension’s Professional Certificate in Educational Therapy is a great way to add additional skills, or pivot to a different career. Lean into the fact that the field is full of wonderfully helpful people wanting to assist new and developing Educational Therapists. In addition to discovering your people, I would strongly advise anybody interested in pursuing a career in Educational Therapy to contact with the Association of Educational Therapists. It is a terrific way to develop those relationships and build those support networks.
Q. What are your hopes and aims for your future?
A. I hope to add to the field of Educational Therapy by first continuing to refine my craft and publishing a book summarizing what I have learned.
Q. In your life today, what makes you really happy?
A. I love helping people. I am patient and can relate to or connect with even the most challenging students. I can see many perspectives and think outside of the box. I also love learning and can frame learning positively.
Q. Anything extra, Grant?
A. When I am not at LJCDS, I love outdoor adventures with my wife Kandi, 5-year-old son Declan, and our Yellow Labrador, Bodhi. We feel so lucky to be living in an incredible place with mountains, the ocean, and culture. Life is good!
Grant is inspiration in a bottle! Twenty clicks on his resume include degrees, certifications, awards, and distinguished jobs, not to mention one published book under his belt! To recognize the value of where you started and bring that back home, to keep doing good and not forget where you came from is admirable. This is a common trait among lifelong learners. Thank you, Grant, for taking what you learned in your freshman year of high school and paying it forward. We’re proud to share your story!
Grant Gavin, Educational Therapist, La Jolla Country Day School
BA, Education & MA, Teaching, Trinity University, San Antonio, Texas
CLAD Certification, University of San Diego
Graduate Certificate Topics, Human Behavior, Harvard University
Graduate, UCR University Extension
Professional Certificate in Educational Therapy