Helping All Students Achieve
By Nina Sears
He retired from teaching high school English in 1997, but Bill Hrdlicka of Hankinson, North Dakota, is back in the classroom full-time as an education support professional. For seven years he has worked as a paraeducator with special needs students in grades 7-12.
He says it’s “rewarding to keep working with young people.
Their vitalilty continually makes me feel young.”
Hrdlicka found his second calling during a brief stint filling in for Hankinson Elementary School’s principal in the 2001-2002 school year. After taking one special education student under his wing, he decided to become a paraeducator. Now Hrdlicka spends his days tutoring students individually to strengthen reading, math, and study skills.
For the past several summers, Hrdlicka has attended state-sponsored workshops to increase his knowledge of autism, Asperger’s syndrome, and other neurological disorders.
“The children with more advanced issues, like autism, are some of the most difficult to work with,” he acknolwedges, “but they’re also the most rewarding.”
One high school junior, who read at a fourth-grade level and struggled with public speaking, worked with Hrdlicka for two years on completing projects and homework more efficiently. Eventually, he was nearly at an eighth-grade reading level. The student was so touched he gave Hrdlicka a plaque and a note that read, “Thank you for giving me a life.”
“It chokes me up more than anything,” Hrdlicka says.
Hrdlicka, who has won multiple awards for community service, also runs a painting business, is vice president of the North Dakota Education Association-Retired, and coaches a summer basketball camp.