Herrin High School
COMMENTS FROM THE NOMINATION FORMS:
"I would like to nominate my mom and fellow educator, Sharon Taylor, for Heartland's Teacher of the year award. Technically I have not been a student of hers, if you don't include the last 39 years of her being an amazing mom to me. However, her students, if they had the ability would nominate her for the Best Teacher's award.
She teaches severely profound high school students at Herrin High school in Herrin, IL. The term severely profound encompasses a lot of disabilities. These are students that can suffer from head injuries, be born with a drug addiction; suffer from severe autism and other learning disabilities. They are all at different varying abilities however; they all have some degree of learning and physical disabilities. She is a voice for them. She sees past their inability to talk and physical difficulties and loves them unconditionally. She loves them as if they were her own.
Sharon Taylor walks with them when they graduate. She prepares their families for their future outside of the public school system. She is an advocate for her students and their families. She has given many evenings so one of her students could be a part of the marching band playing the tambourine, walking with this student in parades and during football games. She brings them out shopping to help each one learn life skills to be a part of our society. She spends her own money to have food and snacks available for them if she knows that they don't like the school lunch. She washes their clothes for them and helps keep them clean and healthy.
Sharon Taylor sees past all the obstacles they endure and sees their beautiful human qualities. She encourages them to learn and use what abilities they have. She creates individualized lessons and doesn't let them use their difficulties as an excuse for not completing work. She mourns for the ones that have passed away because of their difficulties and keeps them alive with stories and pictures she keeps in her wallet.
My mom will be retiring in 2014 and she deserves to receive the Heartlands Best Teacher Award because she is an amazing teacher with so much love and understanding for her students. I admire her greatly and strive to bring so much love and understanding into my own classroom of students. Thank you for your consideration."
"Since the late 1980s, Sharon Taylor has dedicated her personal and professional life to students who have a wide range of learning, mental, emotional, and physical disabilities. She currently works with high school students who have severe disabilities- teaching them independent living skills and basic methods of communication.
Beyond her normal job duties, Sharon fights to have her students included in extracurricular activities such as marching band (her student's play the tambourine) and attending prom (she buys her student's prom clothes and assists them at the event). She frequently thinks of creative ways for her students to experience fun and excitement in and out of her classroom-from baking Thanksgiving Day turkey's to taking trips to Wal-Mart to learning how to fish.
The majority of Sharon's students come from homes that do not properly care for them. Oftentimes, she and her aides are the only individuals who bathe, feed, shave, and change adult diapers of the students who are unable to do these tasks on their own.
In addition to taking care of her student's hygiene, Sharon deals with students who hit, bite, and attack her and her aides. The students who do this are often adult-sized 200-pound boys who do not do this out of anger, rather it is a negative effect of their disability-and Sharon understands that. Her poor arms are constantly bruised from "incidents" and she routinely has to replace her broken glasses after a student knocks them off her face.
Not only does she calmly deal with each "attack", she also comes to the aid of her students who frequently suffer from seizures in her classroom-keeping them safe and comforting them once the seizure is over.
Unlike a regular education teacher who might have to deal with an occasional student getting sick in his or her classroom, Sharon deals with an unbelievable amount of messes on a daily basis and she cleans them up herself. In addition, a regular education teacher may have to deal with the loss of an occasional student-s-Sharon used to work in an elementary school and has been the teacher of some students their entire lives. She watched them grow, develop, and she treated them as her own. Due to the nature of these student's disabilities, they often have a short life span-sand Sharon has attended the funerals of six of her students throughout the years.
The eyes of students light up when they see her. Teenagers who oftentimes do not have a voice, find their voice in Sharon. She fights for them, loves them, and she knows she's doing what she was sent into this world to do. She truly is an angel to individuals who are developmentally disabled-and she, without a doubt, is one of Heartland's Best Teachers."
Sharon picks up or prepares breakfast, snacks, and lunch for her students every school day. She and her aides set the food out and assist the students with learning how to use utensils, how to eat proper portion sizes, how to politely request more or less of a food item, and how to clean up after themselves. For individuals who do not have the ability to feed themselves, Sharon and her team assist them and have "conversations" with the students so they feel they're part of a family having a meal together.
I have never met a teacher who thinks about her students more. Sharon is constantly shopping for toys or developing creative multi sensory games for her autistic students. The funding for these toys is 100% Sharon. She spends so much of her own paycheck (as many teachers do) to improve the school and teaming experience for her kids.
A simple example of a workshop game is the following: The students twist the caps on bottles and put the bottles away. This skill will be very helpful to the student once he or she enters the Workshop.
Sharon and her aides often arrange to have her students enter social environments to teach social skills. Some of her students are able to learn how to place a food order at a fast food restaurant or shop for groceries at a supermarket. Other students are unable to comprehend these tasks, however, Sharon includes them in the "field trips" to give them an opportunity to be in public and see places they may otherwise never see (some students' parents do not have the ability to travel with their child and/or completely avoid doing so for fear of how the child will behave.)
In conclusion, I will say that I have not been a student of Sharon's-nor am I a relative of one of her students. However, I've known Sharon my entire life and I've worked as a substitute teacher in her classroom on numerous occasions. I know I'm technically not 'qualified' to make this nomination...but before dismissing everything I've said-please keep in mind that Sharon's students do not have the ability to send in nominations. Also, getting the entry form to the parents of her students is a little more challenging than in, regular education classroom.
I've personally never met a teacher who cares for her students more than Sharon. She bathes them, feeds them, gets hit by them, cries with them, fights for them, and I truly believe she loves each and every one of them dearly. Sharon plans to retire in 2015. This reward would mean the world to her as she approaches her final year as a full-time teacher. I cannot think of someone who is more deserving. She has dedicated her life
to teaching special needs students and creating experiences for them so they feel loved and have lives that feel meaningful. I will forever say the following: Sharon Taylor is without a doubt, one of Heartland's Best Teachers."