LifeChanger of the Year Nominee Profile

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Vicki Simmons

Position: K-12 Adaptive Physical Education Teacher
School: Haynes-Inman Education Center
School District: Guilford County Schools
City, State: Jamestown, NC

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Vicki Simmons was nominated by her principal, Kevin Carr.

Ms. Simmons is an amazing adaptive PE teacher at Haynes-Inman Education Center. She ensures that her students, who all have disabilities, receive quality lessons each day. Haynes-Inman is a school for students with significant disabilities, where they believe that there is no such thing as a “standard” course of study. Ms. Simmons adapts each lesson to fit the special needs of her students. She eagerly accepts the challenge to develop wonderful lessons that engage her students in learning and provide them with new experiences.

"I am inspired each time I walk into the gym and see Ms. Simmons working with our students, many in wheel chairs, all with significant disabilities," Carr said. "She has found a way for all of them to jump rope, play volleyball, play shuffleboard, and even kayak through the school."

Other staff members like to say that Ms. Simmons is the best cheerleader for the students, their families, and the staff. She always finds a way to adapt PE to the needs of the students and make them successful in whatever they do. It is the smiles and the expressions on the students’ faces that tell the best story. Ms. Simmons provides experiences that all students should have, especially students with disabilities.

"To see the determination on the face of one of our students, as he tries to move his arm to push the balloon over the volleyball net, is truly awesome," Carr said. "To see the perseverance of our young students in wheelchairs learn to play rugby is incredible."

Ms. Simmons' classroom is a welcoming and safe place to learn. No matter what project she is working on with her students, she is always focused and teaching. Several years ago, she put together a camping experience for her students. One of the activities was a duck race.

"The duck races are not about the ducks," said Ms. Simmons. The duck races are about bringing people together, cheering, and having fun. I first saw the duck races 3 years ago at an NCDPI Conference in Greensboro for the families & teachers of children who are deaf and blind. The children could not see or hear, but from the excitement of the people they loved and who loved them, they knew something special was happening, and the students were excited too! Folks who work with people with disabilities need to realize that their energy – positive or negative - transfers toward people with disabilities."

It is not uncommon to see other teachers standing outside Ms. Simmons' room. They want to see what she is up to in her classroom, and perhaps borrow an idea for their own classroom. She helps mentor those who are new, and listens to concerns from all. She offers solutions as needed, and knows that when the teachers feel supported, the students benefit.

“Vicki is a great listener," said Brenda Lewis, a teacher at Haynes-Inman. "She collaborates with others, always gives a lending hand, has a positive attitude, and is hard-working, enthusiastic, excited and serious about her job!”

Ms. Simmons serves on the school leadership team, and takes an active role in helping the new school grow. She not only shares concerns, but also includes suggestions. It is her goal to be continually improving and to spread the good news about Haynes-Inman to the community. They often use the gym when they have guests or assemblies for staff and students. Ms. Simmonsw always takes a leadership role in preparing and setting up the gym. She is a wonderful host and wants to make sure that everyone has what they need to make the program successful. In the past year, Ms. Simmons has also coordinated several school-wide events at Haynes-Inman. They have enjoyed visits from the Cat in the Hat, Flaco and Ze Clownettes, and even the Wake Forest Women’s Basketball Team; all at Ms. Simmons' urging. She always takes the time not only to teach students about the visitors, but also has a wonderful message to share with visitors.

"It is always enjoyable to watch the interaction between our students and visitors as they learn from one another," said Carr.

Ms. Simmons is well aware of the importance of telling her school's story. With her help, the school has earned the trust of so many in the community, and Ms. Simmons has become the unofficial historian. Outside her office, she has posted many newspaper articles that have appeared in the Jamestown News and Greensboro News-Record. The postings serve as a real morale boost to the staff and families. Ms. Simmons has also established a wonderful partnership with Greensboro Parks and Recreation in the community. While it is difficult for many students to access the parks, this group, has brought the park experience to them. Students have enjoyed activities like adaptive golf, archery and kayaking through the hallways on rollers.

“Vicki is truly one of a kind," said Margaret Akingbade, a physical therapist at the school. "She brings so much energy and enthusiasm to everything she does, it is contagious. She is a teacher of teachers. This is obvious in how she interacts with many of the student interns from local colleges. She enthusiastically invites many people from the community to visit our school and they are so impressed many end up volunteering at Haynes-Inman.”

"As I look back, Vicki has made a positive difference in the lives of her students," Carr said. "We are all – students, staff, and parents – fortunate to have her here at Haynes-Inman. To all of us, Vicki is a LifeChanger!"

Comments (4)

Sarah Haislip Posted over a year ago

Vicki Simmons sounds like the teacher all youngsters would be blessed to have at some point!

Jason Rubley Posted over a year ago

The most eye opening perspective on Ms. Simmons' nomination is that each and every day she works to make a positive, encouraging difference in the lives of these children. She is doing so with the excitement and drive of a first year teacher. This amazing example to others has been sharing and caring at this level, with the elevated drive and positive impact, for 40 years

Deb Hertlein Posted over a year ago

Vickie was the Adaptive PE teacher when I taught a self contained class comprised of young students with cognitive as well as physical disabilities....She ALWAYS wanted to include each of my students and they LOVED her so much! Vickie is an outstanding educator as well as an advocate for her students! She taught me so much! What a gift she is to "OUR STUDENTS".... I'm proud to call her my friend! ????

Nanette Wood Posted over a year ago

Vicki Simmons is unbelievably gifted and talented when it comes to teaching and learning. Now going on her 40th year of teaching, she contains the enthusiasm for learning usually found only in youth. I am personally blessed with several emails per week from Vicki, keeping me updated, offering encouragement, and exposing me to new opportunities for learning. I thought I was particularly blessed until I found out that she literally does this for all of her colleagues, friends, and yes, even her enemies. Vicki is a lifechanger extraordinaire.