Bookmark and Share


More Than a Family Bond vBy Julie Eickhoff Judy Willcut and two of her daughters share more than a genetic bond, they all followed a career of teaching. Even more noteworthy, they all specialize in Special Education. The reward of a high school diploma and a college degree for Judy came with its challenges, and it’s not something all her sisters could experience. She explains that she and her next older sister attended college while the three older sisters began working after the 8th grade to help support the family. For Judy to attend high school, she had to live, work and board herself in a different town as there wasn’t a high school in her hometown. When Judy went to college, women at that time were given the option of studying teaching or nursing; Judy opted for the teaching field. The decision wasn’t difficult, she comments that she had always known she was going to be a teacher. She obtained a degree in Elementary Education with a minor in Special Education. “It made sense to me that Special Education would complement Elementary Education because they were showing me different ways of teaching to help people that were having problems with the traditional way of teaching and the traditional curriculum,” she states. In 1970, she finished college, moved to Yankton and began her teaching career in Special Education, spending the next 49 years in that field. She gained experience from various opportunities. She taught self-contained Special Education classes at Lincoln Elementary School with students who were approximately 14-20 years old. When these students moved to the Yankton Middle School, then located on Walnut 6vHERVOICEvSEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2019 L to R: Natasha Phillips, Judy Willcut and Martha Williams Street, she moved with them. A few years later, she moved to the high school on Mulberry Street with the older students. She also spent time teaching at Stewart Elementary and in the Resource Room at Lincoln Elementary where she recently retired from. Two of her five children, daughters Natasha Phillips and Martha Williams, followed in their mom’s footsteps though neither initially intended to. Natasha admits with a shy smile, “I fought it for a long time because I wasn’t going to go into the same field as my mom did.” After becoming very familiar with disabilities when one of her siblings was born with some, she became a paraprofessional. She worked with many different types of kids, from those who needed assistance with all their needs to those who just needed help in the classroom. “Which was good because I got to see it all,” she states. She later obtained her teaching degree at age 30 when she went back to college full time. She now teaches at Beadle Elementary with the district’s program for students with emotional and behavioral disabilities, working with children in grades kindergarten through second or third grade. Her younger sister Martha agrees that she didn’t intend to go into the same field as well. Before teaching, she traveled, working as a paraprofessional in Special Education. She now teaches at one of the alternative high schools in Minneapolis, Minnesota in what is equivalent to a Resource Room. She works with an age group of 15- to 20-year old students. A Transformation Judy witnessed many changes in the special education field over her

© Copyright 2015 Her Voice Online