SFHS special ed teacher poised to retire

by Verla Peichl
Falls News Correspondent

SHEBOYGAN FALLS HIGH SCHOOL special education teacher Deb Wehrman will retire at the conclusion of the 2016-17 school year, after a 37- year teaching career. 
Falls NewsphotobyVerlaPeichl SHEBOYGAN FALLS HIGH SCHOOL special education teacher Deb Wehrman will retire at the conclusion of the 2016-17 school year, after a 37- year teaching career. Falls NewsphotobyVerlaPeichl Patience is often an attribute that is needed, but not required, when it comes to being a teacher.

Deb Wehrman exudes patience even in general conversation, but her patient demeanor was certainly obvious in her chosen profession of special education instructor.

Her special talent will be missed after the 2016-17 school year concludes next week because Wehrman will be retiring after 37 years as a teacher in the district’s specific learning disabilities program.

“It was early on in my life that I knew I wanted to be a teacher,” said Wehrman, “With PL 94-142 (Education for all Handicapped Children Act) passing in 1975, one year prior to my high school graduation, I had the opportunity to mentor at a segregated school and in a special education classroom in Sheboygan. These experiences defined the direction of my teaching career.”

Wehrman’s 37 years career started as a teacher of students with specific learning disabilities, coordinator of two work experience programs, experience based education and a move to community employment.

She taught fifth grade, sixth grade and students with intellectual disabilities, while also serving as the coordinator of the Java Roast school-based business for the last 10 plus years.

The special education field covers a large area of intelligence, comprehension and student skills.

Wehrman helps students to understand their own special skills, not only in the classroom but things they will need every day of their lives.

She helps them to identify their own individual ability and expand on what they are capable of doing and learning.

“I look at myself as being somewhat of a detective,” said Wehrman. “I love challenges, so I will look at the student and investigate into what I find are there strong points and hopefully find out what that student is capable of learning. I find their strengths and then build on those strengths.

“It takes time, but if one is willing to persevere you are able to find the correct answer,” she said. “One should never give up on a student, but show them how to learn by doing. Search things you want them to learn about and continue to build on what you find.”

Wehrman says one of the keys to special education, is building confidence in students.

“Throughout my life, I have had a strong belief, which was instilled by my parents, that no matter what obstacles there may be in your life, you can always find a way around them as long as you remain focused and have a drive to do your best,” said Wehrman. “This has been a belief that I have tried to instill in my students throughout the years.

“You have to have confidence in yourself and believe in yourself,” she said. “At times this can be hard when you have people around you telling you that you aren’t capable of doing this or that, but you have to stand up and show them what you can do, not what you can’t do. I don’t see my students as having disabilities, I see them as having abilities. We can’t focus on what someone can’t do, only on what they can do and build on those skills.”

Wehrman has focused strong on building bridges in the classroom.

“Individuals with disabilities have dreams to have adult lives like everyone else,” said Wehrman. “They want to work and live as independently as possible in their home communities. As a special educator, it has always been my goal to help them gain the skills and have the experiences that you make their dreams reality.

“When an obstacle to learning a new skill arises, a teacher helps their students find a way to build a bridge,” she said, “It’s all about building bridges, not dams.”

According to Wehrman, giving special education diverse experiences can serve as an important key to their success.

“I always encouraged my students to step out of their comfort zones and try to do new things and learn from them,” said Wehrman. “I took them to plays, to the prom, to homecoming dances and the games. I had them go as a group to get involved with school activities, which are important.

“I always helped them to become the best that they could be and that’s what helps make you a better person. Every day you learn something and once you stop learning you can’t become the best you can be.”

Wehrman is very appreciative of the support she has received during her 37-year teaching career.

“I would like to thank the Sheboygan Falls School District Administration for allowing me to live my dreams,” said Wehrman. “I want to also thank my family and colleagues for supporting me and all of my ideas.

“Thanks to my students throughout the years, who have a special place in my heart and who have taught me more than I could ever have imagined,” she said. “It’s okay to be yourself as long as you are your best. Every day is a learning experience.”

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