Occupation: Coordinator for the Office of Exceptional Learners (for Lynchburg City Schools)
Resides: With her husband, Brian and two children, Orion (9) and Trulie Grace (5), in the Rivermont area of Lynchburg.
Tell us a little bit about your current role with Lynchburg City Schools.
I am currently the coordinator for the Office of Exceptional Learners for Lynchburg City Schools (LCS) where I have the privilege of working with students with unique learning needs. I also get to collaborate with school staff and families across the division as we team together to achieve our mission of reaching “every child, by name and by need, to graduation!”
You came to that position from E.C. Glass High School. What did you do there, and why did you choose to pursue a career in special education?
I actually student taught at E.C. Glass in 2004 and spent 10 years teaching there. During my time as a Hilltopper, I worked as a special education teacher in both the Division Wide Autism Program and the Functional Living Program. Working with students with (dis)ABILITIES is my calling. My husband Brian and I both work in special education, and I truly can’t imagine being in any other profession.
Outside of your work, you have another passion related to special education. Tell us about Team Hoyt and how you first learned about the program.
As I mentioned, my husband and I both work in special education and are really passionate about serving that community. We also both love exercising. About five years ago I started running and at our first big race, in Virginia Beach, we saw a man pushing a boy. After the race, he told us about Team Hoyt—an inclusive athletic team. Runners push athletes with disabilities that would not otherwise have the opportunity to participate in road races. Team Hoyt is named for the father/son running team in Boston that founded the organization.
That led to you and your husband participating in a similar effort in Lynchburg. What type of involvement does your United Athletics chapter play in the community, especially during the Virginia 10 Miler?
United Athletics is a very similar group to Team Hoyt that started in Richmond and has a local chapter here in Lynchburg. Our group is fairly small still, but we have athletes and assisted athletes that participate in road races and triathlons throughout the year. The Virginia 10 Miler is one of our favorite races and for the past three years, my husband and I have pushed athletes who are LCS students.
What’s your favorite memory from the Virginia 10 Miler so far?
Oh wow, that is a hard one. The past three years have been full of great memories! Last year we pushed a 5th grade student who started high-fiving people around mile four. By the end of the race, she had over 600 high-fives! Perhaps even greater though, my best memory is seeing the student cross the finish line each year. To see their family members smile and hear everyone in the crowd cheering for them is truly magical!
It can’t be easy to push someone for a full marathon. How do you manage to do it, and what keeps you going?
Physically it is more challenging, but as many marathon runners would agree, running long distance is also a mental challenge. Our athletes give us so much inspiration that they make the run worth running! I honestly would not want to run a race without assisting an athlete. My husband and I always say that we are our athletes’ legs, but they are our hearts!
As you look ahead to your future, what are your goals and aspirations, both in your career and in your passion with inclusive athletics?
A personal goal of mine would be to assist an athlete in an Iron Man. But, my true aspiration in both my career and for inclusive athletics would be to continue to help people with and without disabilities see each other as people first. I am humbled to help students and their families realize that all things are possible!
Any advice for runners?
My husband and I both have really benefited from cross training. We do Crossfit at Crossfit Lynchburg and that has been a huge help in building our endurance and strength. And of course, I would say for any runner who enjoys races, come run with United Athletics Lynchburg and experience the joy of sharing your race with an assisted athlete!