Chicago native Lizzy Wylly (Special Education, '18) didn't always know that she wanted to be a teacher. It wasn't until her junior year of high school—after volunteering to lead a special education gym class—that she realized her passion for helping others discover their abilities.
What initially got you interested in studying Special Education?
“During my junior year of high school, I applied to be a gym leader and was placed with our school’s special education class. At first, I was unsure how to act or engage with the students. But I ended up absolutely loving it because they had an appreciation of life that humbled me. I knew then that I wanted to help others incorporate their abilities instead of focusing on disabilities.”
Why did you choose Xavier?
“There aren’t many small, private schools in the Midwest that offer a full Special Education program. I also knew I wanted to be in a place that would allow me to be involved—as involved as I was in high school. When my mom and I drove to Cincinnati from Chicago for a campus visit, I made friends right away and felt so welcomed. I was like ‘I found my people.’"
What do you like most about the program?
“All my professors have experience in the field. Most of them are practicing teachers during the day—so they’re constantly sharing stories about the challenges and rewards of teaching special education students. They’re realistic and it helps me to know what to expect.
Another benefit is that classroom observations begin freshman year. That’s been helpful for me because I feel prepared for anything that might happen in the classroom. I’ve already been called everything but my first name. I already understand that it takes a special person to do this work and I want to be prepared.”
What advice would you give to someone interested in studying education?
“Be involved and try to experience every area of special education. Having a holistic, wide range of skills to teach different types of students will help you become a better teacher. Plus it’s really marketable to schools that are hiring.
At the end of the day, you have to love teaching and connecting with other people. I learn just as much from the students as I teach them—this I’m sure of. Sometimes all it takes for someone to succeed is another person who believes in them.”