It takes an exceptional teacher to lead an exceptional children’s class and, in Lincoln County, no teacher has done so more exceptionally than West Lincoln High School’s Jayme Farmer, who has been selected as the 2018-19 Lincoln County Schools EC Educator of Excellence.
“Our EC teachers are absolutely amazing,” Lincoln County Schools Superintendent Dr. Lory Morrow said. “They find ways to reach children above and beyond the call of duty, along with dealing with some of their exceptionalities. They look for ways to continue to make learning fun, challenging and meaningful and we’re really grateful for all of the work that they do in Lincoln County Schools because they have a very special skill set and talent, and without them, we would not nearly be as successful as we are.”
Farmer, a Rochester, New York native who moved to Denver at the age of 10, graduated from East Lincoln High School before pursuing further education at Appalachian State University. Originally a business major, Farmer quickly realized that career path wasn’t for her and sought opportunities to help children with disabilities.
“I started off as a business major, but I took one business class and I hated it,” Farmer said. “It was something that I thought maybe I should do, but I had zero passion for it, so I had to figure out what I really wanted to do. I went and spoke with one of my academic advisors about it and, after several meetings with her discussing where my heart lies and what my passion was, she suggested that I consider teaching, which was something that had never crossed my mind before … I’ve just always loved working with kids and, while I was at Appalachian, I volunteered with Watauga Opportunities working with adults with disabilities, so I think I just paired together my love of working with kids and people with special needs.”
West Lincoln High School hired Farmer to her first job out of college and she’s now been teaching the exceptional children’s class there for the past 12 years. The job obviously presents a different set of challenges compared to what most teachers face, but Farmer says the key to working with exceptional children is taking the time to bond with each student individually.
“Even in a regular setting, every kid is different and presents different challenges, but it’s just more apparent in an EC classroom,” Farmer said. “Every single child you teach has a different disability that presents a different set of needs that need to be met daily. You have to constantly be aware of that and it’s not something that you can just brush aside or ignore. You’re really teaching the individual student, whereas in the regular setting you’re focused more on the whole class … In an EC classroom your end goal is not always about academics, it’s really about building relationships. If you can’t build that relationship with a child then you’re never going to win them over.”
Despite the challenges that come with her job, the reward of watching her students continue to reach new milestones everyday is what fuels Farmer’s passion for working with exceptional children.
“It’s always been about the kids and it will always be about the kids,” Farmer said. “Being a teacher and working in the school system, not everything is perfect all of the time. We all have things that we struggle with and things that are out of our control, but it really all comes back to the kids. Seeing them excited when they see you and seeing them get excited about little things they’ve accomplished or certain milestones they’ve reached, that’s what it’s all about.”
Farmer will be recognized as the 2018-19 Lincoln County Schools EC Educator of Excellence during the 68th annual Conference on Exceptional Children in Greensboro in November.