Position: Special Education
School: Wilson Jr High School
School District: Manitowoc Public School District
City, State: Manitowoc, Wisconsin
About the Nominee: Leann Clayton was nominated by Wendy Smith, the parent of two students. Ms. Smith has a 13 year old son, Luke, who has been diagnosed with autism, anxiety, depression, etc. Although he has struggled in the public school system, this year is different because of Ms. Clayton. She is a very special educator with whom he has really bonded with and whole-heartedly placed his trust in. It shows in his grades, school successes and his growth as an individual within the school setting.
Ms. Clayton is always caring, yet maintains professionalism with those around her. She spends countless hours before and after school making sure that her students’ needs are met and that she is ready and organized for the next day/week. Luke is currently working on being an advocate for himself, and Ms. Clayton is encouraging him to speak for himself. She works with him and talks him through challenging situations, such as talking to other teachers about things he can't talk through himself. Ms. Clayton always returns emails and phone calls within hours and comes up with ideas to help Luke learn and be social and successful in school. During Luke's IEP this year, she worked with him on his future transition and career plans. Luke sat in his IEP explaining what he needed. The assistant principal even said, “Luke, I am proud of you for knowing, trying and accomplishing your goals and coming up with new ones.”
Ms. Clayton’s work with Luke this year on his goals and helping him gain confidence played a big part in this accomplishment. For the past five years, Luke has struggled with math, so he was put in a math strategies class with Ms. Clayton. She spent extra time working with Luke and was patient and understanding with him. Today, Luke enjoys being in math class and is back on track to not having to take an extra math class next year.
Every night, Ms. Clayton texts Ms. Smith with all of the homework that needs to be done, especially if Luke misses school because of medical appointments. She has worked with him and his teachers to get him back on track. This year, Luke has received A’s and B’s in all of his classes!
Luke also has high anxiety, which sometimes causes him to have physical symptoms, such as the day he had two tests in one day. Ms. Clayton works with him to come up with solutions so that he doesn’t have to miss school. For example, Luke sometimes takes tests in Ms. Clayton’s room or a quiet room, which matters a lot to him and his mother. He has also improved his organizational skills tremendously because Ms. Clayton teaches him some of the best ways to stay organized.
Another thing about Ms. Clayton is that she always asks the student what works best for them, or comes up with solutions for the student and checks in to make sure they’re working well. Whenever Luke has an issue, for example, he asks his mother to drop him off early so he can talk to Ms. Clayton. This is huge, according to Ms. Smith, because she has never before heard Luke say he wanted to go in and talk about his problems one-on-one with a teacher. Ms. Clayton is always positive, no matter what time of day it is, and she always makes time for parents and students. She is a LifeChanger because she goes above and beyond every day in order to change her students’ lives!