Angela Wright, a special education teacher at Leavitt Area High School in Turner, stands Wednesday morning in the entrance of the school. She was recently named Special Education Professional of the Year by the Maine Department of Education. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

TURNER — Angela Wright, a teacher at Leavitt Area High School, has been named the Special Education Professional of the Year by the Maine Department of Education for her dedication and service.

With a bright attitude, Wright works with her students to find their hidden talents and skills and use their natural strengths to thrive.

She wanted to become a teacher from a very young age, she said.

“I remember being 10 years old and saying that I was going to go to college and become a teacher,” Wright said.

With a passion for history, she finished high school and attended Saint Joseph’s College in Standish, where she majored in history and double minored in secondary education and political science.

After graduation, she got a job as a special education technician at Brunswick High School, but she was still drawn to teaching a history class.


“I told the staff that I didn’t want special education to be my career,” Wright said, “but three years later, our director told me to get my certification for special ed. I ended up enrolling in some grad classes, and I really enjoyed them.”

After she completed her certification, she applied for various positions and soon began working at Leavitt Area High School. That was 18 years ago.

Asked if she found her profession challenging, Wright said, “Special ed can be incredibly challenging. Laws are constantly changing, which affect how we have to teach in class. It feels like since I started, these changes are happening a lot more rapidly.”

Despite the challenges, she said she gets support from not just her friends and family, but from her students.

“The month of March is particularly challenging, but sometimes you’ll get a note from a student that says something like, ‘I couldn’t have gotten through this without you,’ she said. “With the award, I saw some of the things that friends and students had said about me, and I started to tear up.”

Not only did Wright’s students make her feel supported, she also felt as if they were a part of her family.


She shared some of her fondest memories while working for the school.

“When I was pregnant with my son, I had a group of rowdy boys, and I started having pretty severe pains,” she said. “At first they were joking around, and then they started getting really worried. They ran out of the classroom to get help, and coincidentally I would end up going to the hospital and delivering my baby.”

She also recounted the story of a student who has since become her neighbor.

“I had a student in one of my first years here, and she was a handful,” Wright said. “Well, a few years later she ended up babysitting my kids. Then once she got married, my daughter was her flower girl, and now my daughter babysits her kids.”

Wright acknowledges that some aspects of her job are very difficult.

“One of the hardest things is just the pacing of everything,” she said. “There’s a room full of students, the phones ringing, and you have deadlines, it gets to be a lot sometimes.” However, she said she doesn’t find working with teenagers to be difficult.


“My family will tell me, ‘I don’t know how you can work with teenagers all day.’ Honestly, I think the teenagers are the easiest part of my job,” she said.

Wright also said she is sometimes amazed at some of her students’ hidden talents and skills that tend to go unnoticed.

“I think the biggest way that we connect with the students is by empowering them to advocate for themselves,” she said. “Maybe someone isn’t the best at reading but they’re amazing working with cars, or maybe they’re a great artist. Everyone has their own strengths, we really try to focus on that, and show these students that it is a strength and it does have value.”

Wright proudly explained that one year she was having tire problems and one of her students asked her to give it to him to fix. The student brought it to the shop and it came back good as new.

Speaking of the state award, she described it as an overwhelming experience.

“Honestly, I was brought to tears,” she said. “Then I saw all of the letters that were sent in on my behalf. My friends, co-workers and colleagues in the department, coordinated everything together and worked with the director. It was so heartfelt and it made me feel appreciated for my work.”

“My goal is to help people, and if they feel that I’ve done that, then it makes it all worth it,” she said.

“I know everyone says this,” Wright added, “but I could not have done this without all of the support from the department. I have some of the greatest colleagues to work with. I also have to thank my family, who have supported me through all of my work, even when it gets challenging. It’s just not possible for someone to do the job alone without support from faculty, family and the students themselves.”

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