Cheryl says goodbye to Highfields after 31 years of teaching. Although she never thought she would teach teenagers, working at Highfields changed her mind.
Cheryl Wichman never in a million years thought that she would be teaching teenagers.
“I’ve always liked working with children,” said Cheryl. “I emphasize ‘children’ because I never wanted to work with teenagers.” She laughed.
But out of the 31 years that she’s been teaching, 28 of those years have been at Highfields working with at-risk teens.
“Once I got into education, I was drawn to working with at-risk kids,” said Cheryl. “I love problem solving with them.”
Cheryl grew up in Lansing and got her degree in Education from Michigan State University. She started teaching at Ingham Intermediate in the autism program through a grant. Once the grant ended, she was searching for another job when the principal at Malcom Williams School at Highfields gave her a call.
“It was the last place in the world I wanted to work,” said Cheryl, “but once I came out here I never wanted to leave.”
Cheryl worked at Highfields for three years, and then quit for 10 years to raise her family of four. Then she returned to Highfields and taught for 28 more years.
It turned out that Cheryl loved working with teenagers.
“I love the kids,” said Cheryl. “They were the reason I stayed…I loved figuring how I could best address their needs.”
As Cheryl continued to teach, she realized that many of her students had learning problems. She went back to MSU to get her master’s degree in Special Education for Mildly Impaired Students.
“I could see that there were so many learning disabilities that I didn’t know how to address,” said Cheryl. “I got my master’s to help these kids with their educational needs and formulate good group dynamics in the classroom.”
Although Cheryl was the one teaching her students, there were times when they were also teaching her. The students will often surprise her with their insights, and open her eyes to new ways to look at life. She appreciates these moments she has shared with her students.
“When the kids found out my husband had cancer, they were able to demonstrate empathy that I didn’t think that they had,” said Cheryl. “That was a special time.”
The students at Highfields have had a lasting impact on Cheryl’s life. She is looking forward to retirement, but admits it’s a “bittersweet” feeling. She is grateful for the opportunity to work at Highfields, and has no regrets about her decision to work with teenagers.
“It’s been an honor to work here,” she said.