Jessica Heelis is a wife, a mom of three boys, and recently earned her degree in special education with a minor in autism studies from Utah Valley University.
“When I had my second child, I was looking at going back to school, but I wasn't sure what I wanted to do,” she said. “I was looking at the degrees at UVU when I saw that they opened the Special Education degree, and I decided that's what I wanted to do.”
In high school, Jessica spent a lot of time volunteering in special education classrooms and working one-on-one with a child with autism.
“I feel like autism isn't new, but it is something that everyone is learning about, and it is just so prevalent in the world today. I think it's important that people know about it,” Jessica said.
She’s worked hard at finishing her education and getting a job, but she admits it hasn't always been easy.
“It was a juggling act,” said Jessica. “There were times I thought, ‘Is it even worth it?’ I had my baby a week before I started my senior semester, and I went back to class a week after. I almost didn't come back, but I had to. I needed to.”
Jessica's hard work and determination paid off, and she is currently teaching special education in grades K-3 in Nebo School District, where she did her student teaching.
Jessica's advice for other students is, “Get to know your professors and have a good relationship with them — it makes some of your classes a lot easier if you like them and they like you. Get to know your cohort or the people you're going to classes with it makes school more enjoyable. There are lots of collaboration and projects you'll be doing [together]. Do your best, and don't procrastinate.”