Special educator Andrew Muffler focuses leadership on individual students

Leadership in the field of education often involves being responsible for large groups of students. Superintendents lead school districts. Principals and other administrators lead schools. Teachers lead classrooms. For Andrew Muffler, a Mckay School graduate and special education teacher in the Wasatch School District, leadership begins with each individual student.

Muffler understands that his students, many of whom have disabilities such as autism spectrum disorder, depend on leadership in the form of individual attention and close relationships.

“I have to develop tight relationships with all of the students so that they trust me when I introduce a new skill,” Muffler explained. “For example, I recently helped a student walk into a building he was previously scared to enter. That was only possible due to the strong relationship that existed.”

While individual attention and leadership are essential, Muffler does face the same challenges other teachers face, including the need to balance attention to individual students with his responsibilities to run a classroom with multiple students who have multiple needs. One quality of leadership he has developed to balance his responsibilities is time management.

“I need to be able to monitor where the students are and if they need a change of activity to stay engaged in class,” Muffler said. “One aspect of time management is managing the aides in the classroom. In order for them to be useful to the students, I need to manage their schedules to place them in the most needed locations at the time of greatest need.”

Because of his attention and dedication to each student, Muffler was recently honored as the Autism Council of Utah Educator of the Year. Muffler’s supervisor, Wasatch principal Shawn Kelly, said, “It is no surprise that Andrew Muffler was chosen for this honor. His caring, loving attitude is second to none.”

Muffler’s caring, loving attitude highlights his foremost leadership quality: his love for his students.

“The leadership qualities I have had to gain begin with love for those I work for,” Muffler said. “Remember that all of the students that we work with are children of our Heavenly Father. They have been given special gifts that are very much needed in our community and our world. Often we get students who are really difficult to work with, but all they need is somebody who will care about them and help them improve their lives. We get to and need to be those people.”

Muffler graduated from BYU’s McKay School in 2009 with a BS in special education with an emphasis in severe disabilities. He later earned his MS from Western Governors University.

Muffler and his wife, Christina, have three children: Jackson, four; Kenadi, three; and Easton, one. They currently live in Heber City, Utah.