Wille Babb, Moffat County High School special education teacher, stands outside her classroom Friday. Babb has taught in the Moffat County School District for 23 years, and her experience includes 16 years at Dinosaur Elementary School.

Photo by Hans Hallgren

Wille Babb, Moffat County High School special education teacher, stands outside her classroom Friday. Babb has taught in the Moffat County School District for 23 years, and her experience includes 16 years at Dinosaur Elementary School.

Mission: Diploma

High school special education teacher sets students on graduation path

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— Wille Babb, Moffat County High School special education teacher, holds up crossed fingers.

Babb has taught in Moffat County for 23 years, six of which she's spent at the high school as a special education teacher. She worked with disabled students in several programs throughout the district.

But, she considers none of those as her greatest accomplishment.

"I think our greatest achievement are those 17 students that will, hopefully, walk across the stage," she said.

The stage is the graduation platform, where this year's graduating seniors will receive their diplomas.

And those 17 students are high school seniors Babb and other special education teachers have taught this year.

Whether that number remains the same on graduation night depends on whether those students complete their coursework.

"We'll keep our fingers crossed that they will cross the stage," Babb said.

Still, it's not always an easy path helping students earn their diplomas.

A special education teacher's work usually goes above the average teacher's workload, Assistant Principal Travis Jensen said.

"I think special education teachers - to be effective - (are) going to have to be very patient, due to the workload that's going to be involved with that student," he said.

That can mean longer hours for special education teachers, he said.

Babb and teachers like her must adapt to students' needs, Jensen said, and must know the law as it pertains to special education.

Jensen believes Babb has met those criteria.

"She's very organized," he said. "She's done a really good job."

Babb began her career at Dinosaur Elementary School, where she taught for 16 years before leaving the school in 2001. Her teaching responsibilities ranged from preschool through third grade and included special education.

"We kind of wore a lot of hats out there," she said.

In 1994, Babb earned her master's degree in special education. She chose to pursue the degree after an earlier teaching experience at a special needs preschool program in Moffat County.

"There were several students (in the preschool program) who were just wonderful kids," she said. "Several of them were very handicapped."

Babb's 23-year teaching experience in the district also includes one year at a Moffat County alternative education program.

Babb's decision to become a special education teacher follows a family tradition.

"My mother was a special education teacher," she said, adding that special education students usually were taught in separate classrooms when her mother was in the profession.

Babb's job is different, however, than the kind her mother had.

In 1975, Congress passed a law mandating schools give disabled students an education comparable to that of other public school children, according to the National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities.

As a result, Babb helps students with learning disabilities or special needs learn in the same classroom as their peers.

Babb taught students from mild to severe and profound disabilities, she said, adding that her pupils included those with Down syndrome and below-average IQs.

The best part of her job?

"I think my relationships with students is what makes me happiest," she said.

Babb still hopes the 17 students scheduled to graduate this year will walk away from the high school in May, diplomas in hand.

And, she still has her fingers crossed.

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