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The Blazer

The official student-run newspaper publication at GEHS.

The Blazer

The official student-run newspaper publication at GEHS.

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Ben Fleer Creating an Environment He Wish He Had

Addie Reiter
Fleer in his classroom

Ben Fleer is an interrelated resource teacher here at GEHS. An interrelated resource teacher is a special education teacher who works with students that are the “least intensive degree of special education.” 

“So they’re students who have special education, but they are in general education, which is like a typical classroom, for the vast majority of their classes,” Fleer said. “Then they have one class with us that’s like study hall, or they meet with us in seminar. So they have eight classes like everybody else and then they do a weekly check-in.”

This is only Fleer’s third year at Gardner Edgerton, but he has been in education for about twelve years.

“This is only my third year [at Gardner]. I was a para-educator who worked in the classroom for four years and then prior to that I taught college for six years,” Fleer said.

Fleer spends half of his time teaching his own class called learning center. The class is made up of learning strategies for students with disabilities, student’s additional lessons for things they are learning in their grade level classes, their career planning, and study hall. Then he spends the rest of his time supporting another teacher’s classroom.

“[This] is generally just supporting the needs of students in the room, although I will say in an English or history class, because of my background, sometimes the teachers are much more willing to be like, well teach the lesson with me,” Fleer said. “I work with a lot of wonderful colleagues, especially if it’s something I have a strong background in, they’ll integrate me into the teaching.”

Fleer grew up in Olathe and went to school at Olathe South while his wife went to Gardner Edgerton. Even though they were close to each other, they didn’t meet until college. 

“[My wife and I] didn’t meet until we were students at Emporia State University. [We] grew up our whole lives 15 minutes from each other [and] never met until we went to college.”

When Fleer was 12 or 13 he found out he has Obsessive Compulsive Disorder also known as OCD. And although he did fine in school he still felt unsupported by some of his teachers.

“I had severe anxiety as a little boy, and I thought I was crazy as a kid,” he said. “And then I eventually learned there’s this condition called Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. I was always really good with words so I got through school just fine, but I really struggled and I was really unhappy and I felt really unsupported by some of my teachers. Who I think looking back, were not bad people they just didn’t know.”

Fleer first thought he wanted to be an English teacher, but then went into special education because he wanted to be the teacher he never had. 

“I thought I would be an English teacher because I love words and taught drama and theater in college, and then over time I realized I really wanted to be a teacher like the teacher I didn’t get to have, so that led me into special education,” Fleer said.

Fleer also explained that he has a daughter who has autism and that has pushed him to want to be the best parent, but it has also helped him become a better teacher.

“I have a daughter who has autism [and] when you have a kid that’s born with something like being on the autistic spectrum, you very quickly go okay now I want to understand everything I can about this and how to be the best parent possible and that leads to learning about how to be a better teacher,” Fleer said. “And that leads you to going, you know there’s other people with kids and they also love their children and want their children to be supported and cared about.”

Fleer’s favorite thing about working at GEHS is his colleagues.

“I really like the people I get to work with. This would be a very hard and lonely job if I felt like it was just me working to support these students, and it’s not,” Fleer said. “I get to work with really wonderful people who care about students just as much, or if not more than me, and that is really special. That’s not that way in every school.

Fleer wants to grow a class garden this year since he has a window in his classroom. He already has flowers growing in his room, but now a lot of his students are interested in adding more.

“I have for once, finally, a room with a window and I want to grow a class garden,” Fleer said. “So [the] goal is to actually grow a class garden and have like different varieties of things in there, and have [students] be the ones that pick and grow them.”

Fleer has a lot of things he enjoys doing in his free time. He likes to garden, read, paint, play Dungeons and Dragons, and play tabletop games. He is also a really big Star Wars and Marvel fan. He finds it really interesting to see the things he was self conscious about being a fan of in high school become “mainstream.”

“Our Tabletop Gaming club is like the biggest club in this school, and I remember hiding from people that I play Dungeons and Dragons because I thought they would make fun of me in high school,” he said.

He also spends a lot of his time with his daughter.

“I spend a lot of time with my kid because I am at that age where like being a parent is the number one thing in my life,” Fleer said.

Fleer shared that a mantra he lives by is “People are not problems.” He then explained that he thinks people tend to conflate others with their problems. 

“People are not problems,” Fleer said. “People have problems, people live with problems, and sometimes people cause problems. People in of themselves are not problems. So if I can teach people that and then you all go out into the world [and] as you face problems if you don’t confuse them with people, I hope it will lead to people being more compassionate and more empathetic and more understanding and actually lead to more solutions.”

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About the Contributor
Addie Reiter
Addie Reiter, Editor in Chief
Addie is a sophomore who loves the color yellow and drinking iced coffee. She enjoys painting and can often be found playing video games and talking with her friends.

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