“I graduated from West Point High School in 1974, and my first choice was to study computers,” said Traylor, who is retiring after 30 years of working with the Troup County school system as an exceptional-education teacher.
Computer science was a new field and the only program she found was for two years, so she went to West Georgia College to pursue her second choice - working with children. Looking back, it seems an obvious path for the woman who has always loved to help people - especially children.
“When I was in high school, we didn’t have special-education classes. Those children were in the classroom with all of us. I always finished my work quickly, so the teacher had me helping the slower children in class. I guess that was my beginning,” Traylor said.
Traylor worked for one year in Meriwether County, then the West Point native began working in Troup County schools where she stayed for 30 years. Education for disabled children has changed a lot since Traylor began her career. In fact, she’s seen some of it come full circle.
“When I was in school the more severely disabled were not even allowed to come to school, other children were in the classroom with everyone else, but didn’t always get the extra help they might need. In the 1970s all that began to change and I was in on the beginning,” she said.
Including disabled children in regular classrooms became rare for a time, but recently that concept has returned to education.
“It was a lot easier in the early days,” Traylor admitted. “Teachers were used to having all the kids in a classroom so you could move some of your special ed kids back into classrooms easier than today. Now teachers don’t have that mindset and it’s a lot more difficult.
“The paperwork is a lot different, too. We used to have an IEP (Individualized Education Program) which was about three sheets of paper. Now it’s like a book,” she said.
The highlights of her career are easy to recall. “I love teaching the children,” she admitted. And the best subject to teach is reading.
“So many times my kids didn’t learn to read early on. When I got them in high school they couldn’t read, but they gave me high school level books to teach them,” she said.
When the school system created a reading enrichment class for exceptional education students, Traylor volunteered for the job. She evaluated the reading skills for all the students. Once she identified the poorest readers, she assigned them to herself to teach.
“It’s great when they learn to read - and most of them can learn,” she said. “All of a sudden when they learn to read, their behavior changes. Some of my kids were even able to graduate with a regular diploma. The key was reading.”
Although she’ll be officially retired from Troup County, after a little “resting up” this summer, Traylor will be looking for work again.
“After 31 years in Georgia, I’m going to cross the line and teach in Alabama,” she said. “If I don’t get hired, I’ll substitute. I’ll be teaching somebody.”
Sherri Brown can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (706) 884-7311, Ext. 240.