Heather Weiler was nominated by her friend, Deborah Kim.
They met on Kim's first day of college in the fall of 1971 at the University of Vermont. Kim was in nursing school, and Ms. Weiler was majoring in education. They became sorority sisters and friends, only to lose touch after graduation. Ms. Weiler attended graduate school in Speech and Language Pathology (SLP) at Emerson College, and set her compass west to ski and work after graduation. She got married, started a family, and never stopped working in education and SLP.
The two friends reconnected in Salt Lake City, UT in 1990 when Kim married and headed west, as well. Ms. Weiler was the director of SLP Services at the University of Utah Hospitals and Clinics, and Kim was the Trauma program manager. In addition to providing clinical services, Ms. Weiler tutored children at the pediatric hospital. She went back to school to complete her educational endorsements at Utah State in Special Education, and she started the Special Education program at South Jordan High School in South Jordan, UT.
Ms. Weiler oversaw the program, provided SLP services to students, and supervised class aides. She also developed the Peer Tutor program at her school, where teachers go to the classroom to work one-on-one with special needs students. Many of her peer tutors have gone onto careers in education, following in her footsteps. She went beyond the basic classroom expectations to provide joy, grace and life skills to her students.
Ms. Weiler had her school build a garden to teach students about plant cycles and food production. She also takes groups of students to Walmart, teaching them how to use public transportation to get where they need to go. Some students have gone on to work at Walmart, stocking shelves. Ms. Weiler also designed a new classroom facility for the school that teaches basic life skills such as cooking, cleaning, making a bed and doing laundry.
She works with a wide range of students, some who are incredibly fragile. In 2014, she was nominated by the parents group and received the Teacher of the Year award. In the fall of 2015, she went back to her SLP roots, and moved to southern Utah to become the Garfield County SLP. Commuting between schools took on a new meaning, as travel times were often 2 hours between schools.
Garfield County is very rural and economically challenged. Ms. Weiler's position is funded with federal dollars, and many of the language and speech problems she was seeing had not been identified early on in the child's education. With the support of the district and the superintendent, she developed the very first Garfield County preschool. She took the initiative to find the money to purchase curriculum materials, and she trained and supervised teacher assistants to implement the program. She leveraged her interpersonal skills to work with community parents in both Escalante and Boulder, UT to support the program and send their children to the programs.
"Heather has planted the seeds of success wherever she has worked, and helped her students to grow," Kim said. "As a nurse, I know first-hand how important early childhood education can be, and the difference it can make to the developing brain. She did this all alone, and I am in awe of her commitment to excellence and service to her students."