Thayer Wilson: 'We can’t leave anyone behind'

Sometimes, seeing growth in Exceptional Children can be hard. But Lawrence Orr Elementary's Thayer Wilson, teacher assistant, monitors her students' progress carefully and uses it to stay motivated. 

"You might not see it every day, but you see it," she said. "And it keeps you going."

Wilson has nine students and even though it's only March, she's noticed significant progress her students this year. She teaches her students from kindergarten until second grade and helps them set goals. This year, one student couldn't put together a puzzle at the beginning of the school year. Now he can. Another non-verbal student has started showing emotions, laughing and interacting with other students. "That's what makes me feel good. When my students can meet their goals," she said.

Wilson was recently named Northeast Learning Community Teacher Assistant of the Year. She was in the front office when Principal Kimberly Vaught surprised her with the news. 

"I was a little shocked, but in a great way," said Wilson. "It is such an honor that my colleagues chose to recognize me in this way."

Vaught says Wilson's strong awareness of the social, emotional, language and academic levels and goals of her students make her a great candidate for district teacher assistant of the year. 

"She is keenly attuned to the needs of her students, helping them navigate the total school environment. She encourages curiosity and exploration through play and discovery.  She consistently looks for opportunities to encourage students to remove limits that may manifest themselves in many different ways in alignment with their physical and or cognitive challenges."

Wilson moved to Charlotte when she was only two years old and graduated from Garinger High. She earned her bachelor's degree in social work from North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University. After working as a certified nursing assistant, she joined CMS three years ago when Lawrence Orr opened. In that time, Wilson has become a strong advocate for students with disabilities.

"We can't leave anyone behind," she said. "No one is too big or too little. There is no one that can't learn. They just learn differently. We need to expect everyone to be able to learn. And we need to meet their needs."

Wilson has developed strong relationships with her students' parents. "They are dealing with a lot," she said. "They have a lot of anxiety and I want to be that person that they can come and talk to make learning easier for their child. I want school to be a happy a place."

Wilson and her husband have a son, 10, and a daughter, 8, both students at CMS. She said her goal every day is to be the kind of teacher she'd want her students to have. 

"I want my kids to have a teacher who cares like I do."