When Simon Östhed decided to change his major from mechanical engineering to special education, everyone was surprised—including him. “People were shocked,” he says with a laugh, “but some things happen for a reason.”
As a sophomore at BYU, Östhed enjoyed studying mechanical engineering but felt a lack of fulfillment as he went about his work. While debating over what he should do, he thought back to the time he felt the happiest: when he was working as a teacher’s aid for a special education class in high school. With that memory as his inspiration, Östhed chose to set his sights on a career in special education.
That decision opened the door to countless memorable experiences, one of which was serving as president of the BYU Student Council for Exceptional Children (SCEC) in 2004–2005. In his capacity as president, Östhed organized fundraisers and service projects such as Labor of Love. One such project, he recalls, was to raise money to purchase Christmas gifts for children with disabilities. Östhed also volunteered at the Special Olympics and Friday’s Kids Respite, sent letters to legislative representatives, and attended Utah CEC meetings. One of the highlights of his presidency was being chosen to share his experiences and ideas at the Utah SCEC Conference in St. George, where he gave a presentation on classroom behavior management.
Östhed’s ties with the CEC, however, did not end after his graduation from BYU in 2005. He went on to become the Utah CEC president from 2005–2006, taking on new responsibilities of planning the Utah SCEC Conference and collaborating with colleges and universities. He served additionally as Student Activities co-chair at the 2006 CEC National Conference. Even more opportunities await him in the 2006–2007 school year when he assumes the position of Utah CEC vice president.
Since receiving his bachelor’s from BYU, Östhed has taught at both Jordan Valley School and South Valley School. He will continue at South Valley School in the fall, teaching at the Jordan School District’s center for transition and vocational training, where he will work with special education students ages 18 to 22. His job will be to prepare them for a successful transition from to the world outside of school by helping their families identify a support system for their future.
Östhed’s numerous achievements during his relatively short time in the field of special education have proven that it’s true: things do happen for a reason. “Being able to be a part of kids’ lives and see them progress and grow is very fulfilling,” he shares. “The most important thing we can have as educators is a love for the children we teach.”