Becoming a Special Education Teacher – Emily Wilkinson

Emily Wilkinson, ’19, has always had a passion for children and individuals with special needs. Her Meredith experience has grown that passion and her own personal experiences have inspired her to become a special education teacher.

As a child development major, Emily enrolled in Meredith’s Early Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) program, which allows her to start taking graduate courses as a senior. Upon completion of her undergraduate degree, Emily plans to earn her Master of Arts in Teaching with a concentration in K-12 special education.

“My professors considered my interest in special education and set up meaningful experiences for me that have helped guide me towards my goals,” said Emily.

The Kitty Hawk, N.C., native has had the opportunity to work in different schools around the area and complete a community internship in literacy development for children with disabilities. Those placements have given her experiences in a special education teaching environment.

“The community internship allowed me to discover other options that are available when working with children with disabilities,” said Emily. “I had to document my findings and present my work. The internship allowed me to choose what I wanted to do and make the experience my own.”

Emily has also volunteered on campus and in her community. She has served with the Special Olympics of North Carolina and has been a part of Meredith’s Special Populations Dance, an annual event hosted by the psychology department where adults with disabilities from all across the state come together for an evening of dancing and socializing.

“Volunteering at the special pops dance and working with Special Olympics participants gave me the opportunity to get to know some people in the community who have special needs and their families,” said Emily. “They also showed me how meaningful and needed these opportunities are for people with special needs.”

Aside from her community involvement, Emily is a member of the Avenging Angels tennis team, where she was named a two-time USA South All-Academic honoree and collected a USA South Women’s Tennis All-Sportsmanship Award.

Being a student-athlete and having learning disabilities herself, Emily has discovered a lot about herself, on and off the tennis court. She has taken on challenges, but her biggest obstacle was getting used to the teaching style at Meredith. Emily’s faculty and coaches have given her the confidence to speak up for herself, the support to go after her dreams, and the encouragement to step out of her comfort zone.

“From my time at Meredith, I have learned I am capable of doing many things in life, but I just have to be willing to try,” said Emily. “I have been able to experience and learn many things that I never thought I would do just because I tried.”

Once she receives her master’s degree, Emily plans to work as a special education teacher in Dare County before opening her own private school or learning center for children and adults with special needs.

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