PINCKNEYVILLE — This week’s Orthopaedic Center of Southern Illinois MVT–Most Valuable Teacher Award–goes to Mr. Will Weatherford, the Special Education and Choices teacher at Pinckneyville Community High School.
After 15 years as a PE teacher, Weatherford changed course to take over the Choices program, which he has taught for the past five years.
“I started out as a PE teacher/coach type of guy,” Weatherford said. “And then when I had some of these kids come down for a mainstream PE class, I started hanging out with them more than I did the athletes. I found a spot for these guys, and I switched over from physical education to special education, and it’s been great ever since. ”
The Choices program is for kids age 13 up through 21. Weatherford’s classes not only focus on academics, but also real life lessons to help them beyond PCHS.
“Our main goal is to hit all of our academics, along with teaching people how to live as an adult” Weatherford said. “And also to get the skills to become a good employee, to get the work skills and to get work ethic to be able to maintain a full-time job themselves as an adult.”
“Everything we do in class or every subject that we do, we try to relate it to an everyday situation, or something they see everyday.”
As with other classes, the pandemic has complicated logistics for the Choices program. Whether it’s a new home base in the library or adjusted the curriculum to fit the circumstances, Weatherford has seen his kids continue to flourish.
“What I tell ‘em is that I hope to one of these days to be working for them,” Weatherford said. “That is the end receipt in this business. It is seeing that child perform and becoming part of the American society and taking care of themselves, living your own life and feeling free.”
PCHS principal Tony Wilson said Weatherford has been invaluable, particularly during the past year. “Throughout the pandemic, he has gone above and beyond more than any staff member I have,” Wilson said. “He has worked effortlessly to ensure our students who require the most support receive exactly what they need during these trying times. He regularly makes home visits to his quarantined students to ensure they have what’s needed. He delivers meals on his own time to students in need. His effort to mainstream our special needs students is remarkable.”
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