Photo by Vickers Photography
Horizon Intermediate’s Teacher of the Year, Monica Trail, remembers sitting in class when she was in the sixth grade, thinking, “There is no way I want to grow up and write on a chalkboard all day long.” She loved children, begging mothers at her church to let her babysit. A desire to be around kids was part of life, but working with children didn’t occur to her as a career.
Trail, who teaches a special education fifth grade math class, enrolled in college pursuing a computer science degree. Her class schedule included multiple programming classes.
“The only problem was that I was bored out of my mind,” Trail said. “It seemed easy, but didn’t make me happy at all. I was sitting in my dorm room, looking out the window at the end of my freshman year when it came to me: I should be a special education teacher. I truly believe God finally got me to sit still long enough to listen to Him.”
She left her room immediately, picked up the forms that laid out the degree program and began making plans.
“I never regretted or ever thought about changing my mind,” she said.
Her students have challenges. She’s taught children with Down Syndrome, autism, William’s Syndrome, Angleman’s Syndrome, dyslexia, cerebral palsy and undiagnosed genetic disorders.
“I love the variety of children I have been privileged to work with and the challenges each new class presents,” Trail said. “I love seeing them smile when they feel successful in my classroom. I love the stories they want to share with me. I love the random hugs in the hallways, cafeteria and Walmart. I love watching them learn something new.”
When Trail taught a developmentally delayed preschool class, her students started school at 3-years-old. She remembers one family who adopted a child from Russia who was born with fetal alcohol syndrome.
“They were told to expect severe mental delays and not to expect him to ever live on his own,” she said. “He started my class and blossomed. I had a very strong language-based program that taught him how to communicate, social skills and academics. After two years in my classroom, I recommended he to go regular preschool and his family was thrilled with his progress. I remember his mom looking at me with tears in her eyes, thanking me for giving her son what he needed.”
Trail was selected to teach fifth grade at Horizon. She selected math. She’s understands it and how to break it down for her students.
The sixth grade student who swore she would never teach has been in the classroom for 26 years.
“My favorite part of teaching is always the children,” Trail said. “No year is ever the same, and I never write the same things on the chalkboard year after year.”