Special education paraprofessional Becky Haywood has obtained multiple life lessons in Room 144

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Special education paraprofessional Becky Haywood has obtained multiple life lessons in Room 144

Twenty-one years ago, current paraprofessional Becky Haywood finalized her life-changing decision to transition from working in the administration office to interacting with special needs students. Haywood pronounced her shift was due to the advice that was given to her by a colleague; the encouragement she received inspired her to give the position a try—so she did.

“I was actually working in the office,” Haywood said. “I had somebody say, ‘Why don’t you [become a paraprofessional]?’ And I said, ‘I [am] a bean counter, not a kid counter. And they said, ‘[Then] give it a try!’ And here I am.”

Haywood was employed in the administration office to monitor the payrolls because she has a degree in accounting. However, she truly was inspired by a colleague who convinced her to alternate job positions, and since her switch, she has fallen in love with working as a part of FHC’s support staff.

“My favorite part is that it’s different every day,” Haywood said. “I have a lot of different kids [and] a lot of different things; I never get bored. I am considered support staff with the district, so that’s why I don’t have any kind of a background as far as a special education teaching degree. It’s been a lot of on-the-job experience.”

Although twenty-one years has allowed Haywood to become more comfortable with her position, she was initially extremely nervous at the beginning of her new career. Haywood has developed a copious amount of admirable traits while interacting with the special needs students, and she directly aids the students in experiencing real classes instead of isolated ones.

“I was very nervous about starting because I didn’t have any background in special education,” Haywood said. “I didn’t have any family members that were a part of that group [either]. But, I found that my life experiences were helpful in adjusting. [Being a paraprofessional] has taught me a lot about patience and being able to adapt to different circumstances.”

Likewise, Haywood credits her eventual success from directing special needs students to her abundance of support from various teachers she knew well. Since she is a paraprofessional and not specifically a teacher, Haywood collaborates with the students rather than instructing them as a teacher would.  

“Every day, you just pick up something and learn from it,” Haywood said. “I had a lot of support along the way with the teachers who have seen what I can do and have encouraged me [by saying], ‘Hey, try this, try that.’ That has always really been a big help.”

Haywood’s most pressing daily obstacle is time. The length of her working hours, due to budget cuts implemented by the district, have lessened the amount of time she is able to put forth to provide her students with the most-fitting opportunities for their needs and desires.

“Support staff has been cut,” Haywood said. “We don’t get to stay the entire day to be with the kids, and sometimes, I find that frustrating. [Therefore, I have decided] to come in the morning and leave early or come late and leave at the end of the day.”

However, the frustration that Haywood experiences regarding restrictions on her time is more than worth it. The joy she gets daily from interacting with her students has completely reshaped her life. Her four students this year are Clay Udell, Kennedy Rudolph, Aaron De Costa, and Christian Beckering.

The number of students Haywood has present in the classroom each year varies; her largest classes have consisted of twelve students. This year, the amount of enrolled students is at a slump; however, the minimal amount of students present allows Haywood to fully focus on the specific needs of each student.

“That’s why I love my job—because they’re so cool,” Haywood said. “They bring smiles to my face every day. I try to do my best for them [always]. I donate time, and I work hard to do what I can while I’m here.”

Haywood’s specific job is to accompany students to real classes. Her presence allows her students an opportunity to experience high school outside of their self-contained area. She accompanies students to classes outside of Room 144 like American Sign Language and Theater, and she assists in their learning in Room 144 of subjects like math, communication, and science. 

“My role in the classroom is to be a helper,” Haywood said. “I modify things as needed. [The program] allows the kids to be in their neighborhood school, be taught things at their level, [and] get out and into the [other] classrooms. So, this [program] allows them a lot of social interaction, and as a whole, this school is very good about having them here and being friends with them.”

“In twenty-one years, there’ve been a lot of kiddos and a lot of good things,” Haywood said, “I don’t just have a favorite one [memory], but I can honestly say that I enjoy getting up every morning and coming to work. I think that makes a really big [difference] in life. It’s important that I can put a smile on my face when I’m walking around the school.”

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