Madison Ledbetter has always known she wanted to be a teacher. A 2020 graduate of Vandalia High School, she returns home in the Fall to teach at the same school system where her mother teaches and to the same halls she once walked as a student.
Madison will graduate from SIU Carbondale this May with a teaching degree and a special education teaching certificate. While Madison’s mother teaches elementary education, Madison is earning her degree in special education with a focus on behavioral disorders, an emphasis she shares she feels called to.
“I knew I wanted to be a teacher my whole life; my family – a lot of them are teachers. Growing up, I spent a lot of time in my mother’s classroom helping her set up her classrooms,” shares Madison.
She continues, “I do have a lot of family that are teachers, and a couple of them are special education teachers. We have some family friends that are special education teachers. I’ve had a chance to observe some of those rooms. And I have some family members with disabilities, too. So just being able to work with other students with disabilities through church, I realized that’s where I was needed. Working with those students who need a little extra help.”
As Madison and I chat, a sign that reads ‘Mindset Matters’ hangs in the distance. A student walks in, and I eavesdrop as Madison speaks with them, her voice slow, upbeat, and deliberate as they briefly connect.
Madison is in the Carterville classroom, where she accepted a position as a long-term substitute teacher. While she was scheduled to student teach, a teacher quit over Christmas break. Madison was offered a chance to be promoted from student teacher to long-term substitute teacher. The position was in the behavioral disorder room, and Madison happily accepted.
Madison focuses on children who need to be equipped to learn and grow in a general education classroom. Some are diagnosed with a disability such as Autism, while others need more individualized attention and tools such as coping mechanisms. The ultimate goal is to reintegrate her students into general education classrooms whenever possible by minimizing their disruptive behaviors.
While Madison is enjoying her time in Carterville and the children she’s had the chance to get to know, she’s especially excited by the concept of returning home. “I think that it’s going to be great. I’ve always wanted to go back home. I have more connections there. My family’s there. There’s a lot of support there.”
“When I was a student in Vandalia, I really enjoyed it. All the teachers seem like family. They care about all their students so you can build better connections, especially in a smaller school setting.”
At the end of the day, whether in Carterville or Vandalia, Madison focuses on those who need extra help. She says she “really got into the behavior side of things. I saw a lot of kids who don’t know how to handle their behavior. They need someone to say hey, I’m here, and this is how we’re going to work through this together.”
Starting this Fall, Madison will join the ranks of the teachers she looked up to as a child. Whether they’re the ones she looked at as family or the ones that are literal family, she’ll soon walk side by side as their peer. And before long, the youth of Vandalia will look up to her as if she’s their family, too.