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Eagle Feature: FGCU Students Exceeding Education’s Expectations

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Jessica Piland

At 15-years-old, Adison Williams began her career educating children at a pre-school in Orlando. Now a senior pursuing a bachelor’s degree in special education, she has taken most of her college classes online to teach students full-time. 

“I was always drawn towards the kids that the other teachers just didn’t feel like dealing with,” Williams said. “It was usually students with behavioral issues if they had something else going on cognitively that wasn’t diagnosed yet. So, I was always the person to take them, and I love them. They always got along well with me. If you’re a little bit more patient with them or if you explain everything to them, they would be more willing to work with you.”

Since then, she’s worked at four different schools, including her current internship at De Lasalle Academy, a special education school in Fort Myers. Rather than being designed by grade level, the classes are set up based on the student’s development and where they are cognitively according to their academic level.

Williams interns at the academy five days a week. In the morning, she teaches high school students and co-curricular courses in the afternoon. Her co-curricular classes include elementary, middle and high school students. 

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She’s learned to adapt to each student’s individual needs. 

“We see a lot of different disabilities, mentally and emotionally, and it’s a very supportive school. Since it’s a smaller school, the students have more access to the counselors who are there for the students and know more intimate details and when they give advice, they’re giving advice. Also, all the teachers are trained in special needs, so having that is cool, everyone can be supported,” Williams said. 

The school provides the students with different accommodations such as differentiated seating or an area to pace in the back of the classroom. It also provides the students with something called “Recovery.” 

“Recovery is for them to recollect. If they are overwhelmed, if something is going on, they can take a lap around the school,” she said. “So, being able to have this recovery allows for them to get out whatever feelings they have in an accepted way or a safe way.”

Last semester, Williams met Lori Hammond, the College of Education University Supervisor, at the College of Education orientation. The two have developed a mentor-student relationship. 

“On day one, when I went over my expectations for the semester, I distinctly recall Adison telling me that she can take constructive criticism. That’s how she learns best,” Hammond said. “Additionally, she dressed the part of a teacher, which is so important in my perspective. Right then and there, I knew we were going to get along well.” 

Hammond said she feels like she has known Williams for years. 

“Adison handles herself in a mature manner and her colleagues at DeLasalle and FGCU adore her and her positive spirit. Her work is always turned in ahead of the deadline and is done professionally. She absolutely loves her students and honesty, integrity and fairness guide her actions and decisions,” she said.

Willams’ parents have heavily influenced her career decisions, especially her mother.  When Willams was five, her mother passed away from cancer due to a brain tumor. This event is the reason Williams aspires to pursue a graduate degree in occupational therapy and work with students who have brain trauma. 

“I always said ‘Oh, I want to fix mommy’s brain,’ and I grew up and thought I’m not going to be a neurosurgeon, that’s so intense,” Williams said. “But I’ve always looked at [occupational therapy] as something I could do to give back. I feel like I have the patience and the knowledge of it.”

Another career option Williams has is to be an occupational therapist for students on the spectrum. When working in the preschools, she saw occupational therapists come to the classrooms and help students who were on the spectrum. Williams said the therapists worked with the students to ensure they were hitting the social norms. The therapists explained to the students how to properly walk into the classroom and make sure they are caught up on schoolwork, helping them progress with the other students. 

Her father has also had a great impact on her. 

“It’s been me and him and I don’t know what I would do without him. He puts everything into perspective when I’m spiraling and freaking out over school and life. He is always encouraging and telling me how proud he is, but he is honest with me when I need it. He always credits his advice and patience to me because he learns it [patience] from my stories about the students and how I handled it. He’s the only thing that keeps me going,” she said.

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About the Contributors
Alexandra Cavalier, Eagle News Assistant Assignment & Features Editor
Alexandra Cavalier is a junior majoring in journalism. She is from Bradenton, FL, and has been interested in journalism since she joined the yearbook staff during her freshman year of high school. In the future, she hopes to pursue a career in publishing. When not planning her next story, you can find her studying art history or watching movies.
Jessica Piland, Eagle News Photo Editor
Jessica Piland is a senior majoring in political science and minoring in global studies. She found her passion for photography during her senior year of high school after shooting some film for fun with her grandfather’s camera from the 80s. In addition to her work as photo editor for Eagle News, she works as a staff photographer for FGCU Athletics and is a photography intern with the University Marketing and Communications department. As she enters her third year as photo editor, she is excited for the fun stories, campus events, and breaking news that Eagle News will be covering!

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