LELAND, NC (WWAY) — Students in Caitlyn Diaz’ class get excited talking about the books they read.
A UNC Wilmington graduate, Diaz is an Exceptional Children (EC) teacher at Leland Middle School.
“I really enjoy working with students with special needs,” Diaz said.
She’s been employed at the school four years and says, at times, the workload can be demanding.
“It is difficult, if you really break it down, I’m setting up about 12 different lessons everyday,” she said.
That’s because each lesson is based on her students’ individual needs.
“Academically, they’re not at a sixth-grade level, you know, they’re receiving EC services where they do function anywhere from first grade to third grade level academically,” she said.
In her class, success isn’t measured by End-of-Grade tests or giant leaps, but rather incremental improvements.
“I’ve got a student who was selectively mute up until coming to sixth grade and he is now talking and initiating conversations with his peers,” she said. “So, that is just one of our huge success stories this year.”
In addition to the curriculum, Principal Askia Kirby says Diaz also teaches her students a number of other skills.
“She focuses on the academics and does a wonderful job of it but she makes sure to take that time to teach life skills, to teach people skills, to teach social skills, because at the end of the day, those are some key pieces that we must teach our children in order for them to be successful in life,” Kirby said. “You can tell she makes them feel like a champion every day.”
After receiving a viewer nomination about Diaz, we selected her as WWAY and Mattress & Furniture Liquidators’ Teacher of the Week.
“Its amazing! I am so honored to have this title,” she said. “Thank you guys so much. Its so humbling and just reminds me that what I’m doing matters and all the little things–a smile on a kid’s face, a hug every morning, a hug goodbye, a little note saying ‘I love you,’ saying thank you so much, getting it from parents as well and other teachers–that’s what worth it, that makes up for the pay.”
Diaz says she wants to give her students a voice, and to ensure they are known and heard.
“I want to do everything in my power that while they are here, they feel loved and taken care of and that they feel they have the capabilities to do whatever they want to do and that there’s nothing that’s holding them back,” she said.
With an encouragement like this, these students certainly have a fair shot at going far and achieving their personal best.
Click here to tell us about an exceptional teacher you know who is making a difference in the lives of students. Each week’s winner receives a $100 Staples gift card on behalf of WWAY and Mattress & Furniture Liquidators.