We are reaching out to students who are utilizing the UW–Madison School of Education Wisconsin Teacher Pledge program to pursue their goal of becoming an educator. Following is a Q&A with Holly Helton, who is working toward a master’s degree in special education through UW–Madison’s Special Education Teacher (UW-SET) Residency Program. Helton is a descendant of the St. Croix band of Ojibwe of Wisconsin.
I am from North Fond du Lac, Wisconsin. I have a passion for special education because of my youngest son, who has autism. From working with schools and professionals for 14 years, it inspired me to become a special education teacher so that I can help other children reach their full potential.
What has been your most meaningful experience as a UW–Madison student?
The support that I receive from my professors, academic advisers, and mentors in the UW-SET program. Everyone always makes sure that I and others in our program are set up for success.
What class or professor has had the greatest impact on you, and why?
The professor that has the greatest impact on me is (Clinical Associate) Professor Sara Jozwik, who teaches Rehabilitation Psychology and Special Education: Classroom Management for Inclusive Classrooms. Professor Jozwik is compassionate and has helped many students with advice and up-to-date practices.
What was your reaction when you learned about the Teacher Pledge?
I was amazed how this program helps potential teachers pay for school and gives back to communities that have a high need for teachers.
"I have a passion for special education because of my youngest son, who has autism. From working with schools and professionals for 14 years, it inspired me to become a special education teacher so that I can help other children reach their full potential." — Holly Helton
How is the Teacher Pledge making it easier for you to pursue your goal of becoming a teacher?
It is eliminating the uncertainty of paying for my tuition, and with the repayment clause that if I work in a high-need area for three to four years my loan is forgiven.
How do you hope to make a difference as an educator in Wisconsin?
I hope to improve the quality of education for students with special needs. I’m a supporter of full inclusion for special education students.
What are your future plans?
My future plans are to get my PhD and help improve policies to ensure that special education professionals and students get the funding and resources they need to be successful.
Is there anything else you would like to share?
I would like to add that my experiences in the UW-SET program have been life changing and encourage anyone who is interested in becoming a special education teacher to apply.