Teachers Are Heroes: Linda Woodward

Posted at 5:22 AM, Mar 25, 2016
and last updated 2016-03-25 18:16:28-04

Linda Woodward only has six kids in her preschool class, yet it doesn't take long at all for her classroom to fill up.

Her children, like all of the students at the Baer School, have a range of physical and mental disabilities.  It means a lot of equipment, a lot of helping hands and a lot of love.

"The children are just awesome.  Every year I am blessed with a different class, a different group of children to know," Woodward said.

Woodward loves working with the youngest students at the Baer School.  There can be challenges working with three and four year olds.  It's the first time they are away from their parents and their communication skills are very basic, usually just pointing, noises or crying.  None of this discourages Woodward.  She sees it as every child coming in with their own dialect, which she must learn and translate.

"They all come in communicating, it's just not very effective for them to be able to tell me what their wants and needs are," she said.  "So the first thing I need to do is form a relationship with them and get to know them."

Much of her work is trial and error to find the best way for each child to communicate.  Woodward is always looking for new techniques, like a symbols book she just started using with the students.  It uses pictures and words to help the kids visualize what they want to say.

And when the students can effectively verbalize what they want to say, Woodward says praise will cement what they're learning.

"Giving them that praise so they recognize what they're doing and they're rewarded for their communication effort."

Colleagues of Woodward say working with special needs students is her calling and she rises to the occasion everyday.  Managing principal Ed Selinski has only known Woodward for a few months, yet he has already seen the kind of impact she has on her kids.

"She's just a loving, warm, down to earth individual," Selinski said.  "She comes in every day and works diligently to support these students to do whatever she can to find ways to help them communicate."

This is Woodward's 27th year at the Baer School and she's not going anywhere anytime soon.

"I will retire from Baer School," she said with a smile.  "I don't know when that will be, but I'm here for the duration as long as they'll have me."