Edwards’ career involved 36 years in special education

After a total of 36 years in special education, Vicki Edwards retired at the end of the school year. She spent the early part of her career at Midland, and 30 years with the MCSD. Edwards is pictured with two of her third-grade students A’Laya Ellis and Jon Loney, whom she worked with one-on-one and inside the classroom. (Photo by Kim Brooks)
Kim Brooks
Express Editor

     Elementary special education teacher Vicki Edwards said, above all, the best thing she ever did for her professional career was to go back to school.

     “I’ll never regret it,” she said.

     Edwards attended Kirkwood Community College after high school and earned an associate’s degree at the time.

     “I thought I was good,” she said of the two-year degree.

     Edwards then went to work at Sacred Heart, working under Jane Corbin and Mag Welter.

     “They encouraged and influenced me to go back to school and get my degree,” recalled Edwards. “They were instrumental in that decision.”

     Edwards did in fact earn her bachelor’s degree through the University of Dubuque.

     “I earned my degree before I had kids, which is the best time to do it,” she said, before life turned hectic.

     After high school, Edwards’ experience working for Systems Unlimited and Camp Courageous helped her see a future in special education.

     On May 31, Edwards retired after a total of 36 years in education: six years at Midland Schools and 30 years teaching special education for the Monticello School District. Edwards’ job involved supporting students in reading and math.

     Edwards admitted the retirement package the district was offering, coupled with “feeling like I wanted to try something else” led to her retirement decision.

     “There are other opportunities I want to do,” she said.

     Edwards has been contemplating retirement the last six to seven months, since the beginning of this school year.

     “I just hadn’t quite decided,” she said.

     Edwards has always taught special education, either one-on-one or with a small group of students needing assistance. She also went into the elementary classrooms to provide assistance as well with the general education students.

     When she started working for the district, she part of the Child Study Team, which no longer exists. Now, she served on the Large Group Data Team and PLC Team with the fourth-grade teachers.

     Edwards, a proponent for education and teachers, was also a regional representative for the teachers union.

     “Our local office was located in Dubuque, and I would bring back the information I learned to our school district team,” she explained.

     She also served on the MEA (Monticello Education Association) negotiation team for several years, and ended her career on the MEA executive board.

     When Edwards started her 30-year career with the MCSD, she said it was refreshing to see the special education students included in the general classrooms. She said inclusion is a strong suit of the MCSD.

     “Inclusion is a big part of what I do,” she said.

     The elementary students Edwards works with are held accountable for following the learning the general education curriculum like any other student.

     “We just accommodate or modify things for them, but they’re still held accountable,” she said. “They have the same standards and benchmarks like other students, but with modifications.”

     Aside from seeing a change in special education, Edwards said technology has also changed as well in schools when it comes to helping students learn.

     “There are so many good apps (applications) for academics,” she said, with students accessing educational apps on tablets.

     Edwards praised Technology Coach Heather Hansen for being up on the latest and greatest apps.

     “She’s a tremendous help,” Edwards said. “During professional development days, Heather teaches us about the newer apps out there.”

     Edwards’ students utilize several different app programs to get through the school day, from apps to assist in their writing as well as speech-to-text. Edwards said some students have trouble writing/scribing, but if they can say something with an app, it will transcribe it for them.

     Edwards also worked with fourth-grade language teacher Lindsay Ryan.

     “I supported students with easy writing,” she said. Edwards would help accommodate those students who had trouble getting their thoughts down on paper.

     As she prepared to depart, Edwards said she would miss the staff she worked with day in and day out.

     “They are so supportive in many ways,” she said, “in my career and in my life. We spent a lot of time together, much like a family.

     “I have so many good memories here, the laughs, and being able to lean on others.”

     Edwards also said she’ll miss her students.

     “They have such spunk,” she said with a smile. “And spunk is good.”

     Knowing she was planning to retire, Edwards said she backed off a bit on the many meetings the teachers attend. To that end, she won’t miss the required paperwork either.

     “There always seemed to be more and more,” she said. Edwards said teachers spend a good portion of their day and contract hours outside of the classroom preparing for class and working on paperwork.

     “IEPs (Individualized Education Program) and behavior rubrics are pretty comprehensive,” she said of the required tasks.

     Edwards has some new tasks on her plate now, hobbies she can dive into with more time, such as reading, traveling, and volunteering.

     “I am just looking forward to making my own schedule, and not following a routine,” she shared. “I’m not good at just sitting around, so I’m sure I’ll find something to do.”



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