From childhood, Abigail Wilt was determined to be a teacher. However, it was during college, as an undergraduate major at Penn State studying human development and family studies, when she found her “ah-ha” moment.
For a summer job, she worked at a childcare facility and helped care for a one-year old boy who had multiple physical and mental ailments. One thing that this child particularly struggled with was drinking from a cup.
“He couldn’t even pick up the cup to drink it,” Wilt remembers. She worked closely with the young boy all summer, patiently instructing him and reinforcing lessons. Before she went back to college that fall, Wilt received a text message from the director of the childcare facility. “All your hard work paid off” was the message attached to a video of the young boy picking up his cup and drinking from it. “I cried,” Wilt admits. “It was so rewarding to see him do it by himself.”
Now, as she pursues her master’s in educational leadership at Immaculata, she is also working toward her goal of teaching special needs children by earning certifications in PreK-4 and special education PreK-8.
When she was researching colleges, Wilt knew that she wanted to attend a university that was close to home and work and offered convenient class schedules. Besides the convenience, she has made friends with her classmates, many of whom are at different stages in their educational career, which makes for lively class discussions and unique perspectives. Additionally, she credits her success to the faculty for being flexible, supportive and proactive. From financial aid considerations to personal phone calls from her advisor, she values the investment of the faculty.
Just getting started in her teaching career, Wilt works in the autistic support classroom with sixth, seventh, and eighth graders at Fugett Middle School in West Chester, Pa., as an employee of Chester County Regional Education Services. The students she works with have physical and learning disabilities. She finds it fascinating to watch them learn. ”Students with special needs learn and understand things differently. It’s so exciting to see when they struggle with something and it finally clicks,” she states.
While working with children with special needs, Wilt often brainstorms ideas that help parents when they feel frustrated. Keeping an open dialogue can provide opportunities for families to look at situations from a different perspective. Wilt has also discovered that by keeping the class active and structured, the students have fun, which can help foster the learning process. She experienced how much fun learning could be while she attended Catholic schools. For example, Wilt’s fifth grade English teacher, Mrs. James, created a song from the tune to Yankee Doodle Dandy that would jog memories when students needed to recall all of the prepositions. “I used this song in college to help me write papers!” she says, with kind appreciation to Mrs. James.
One lesson that she has learned in her young career: You don’t go into education for the money. “You go because you love kids and you want to see them learn and succeed,” Wilt says. “That’s exactly why I came to this profession.”