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Interview with Eleanor Wright, November 5, 2002 | UNCW Archives and Special Collections Online Database

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Interview with Eleanor Wright, November 5, 2002
November 5, 2002
In tape 2, Dr. Wright reflects on past work experiences. Included is a description of her work in Guilford County, N.C. for 12 years and a discussion of 1 summer's work at Appalachian State University in Boone. She also discusses her research interests in the field of special education, her service in professional organizations, and her experiences in retirement.
Phys. Desc:

Interviewee: Wright, Eleanor Interviewer: Lack, Adina Date of Interview: 11/5/2002 Series: Voices of UNCW Length 43 minutes

Lack: Good afternoon. Today is November 5, 2002 and we are doing part two of an interview with Dr. Wright, Associate Professor of Education in the School of Education at UNCW.

Lack: Dr. Wright, we’d like to pick up with where we were last time. You had mentioned that you had some interesting work experiences.

Wright: I was one of the first two teachers of children with mental retardation in Guilford County. At the time I started, that was 1960 and that also happened to be the year that John F. Kennedy was elected president and that Terry Sanford was elected governor of North Carolina.

With Kennedy’s interest in mental retardation and also Terry Sanford’s interest in education and in the needs of special children, we saw a tremendous growth in services for children particularly in mental retardation and speech and language disorders during that period of time. Very rapidly we went from two teachers serving children in a school system to I think 11 the next year and 17 the following year.

After three years in the classroom I became--I think I was called the helping teacher for special education for Guilford County. That was in 1963. The year prior to that I had started the first high school program for children with mental retardation in a new consolidated high school.

Lack: That’s very advanced for the early 1960’s. Was Guilford County ahead?

Wright: Guilford County was a very progressive county. It’s still I think one of the largest school systems in the state. At that time it was three separate school systems, Guilford, Greensboro and High Point. But we had our very _____ superintendent. We had a very active parent group in Guilford County. At that time, they were very interested and the time was right and the state was also beginning to look at the whole issue. Our school system wanted to be at the forefront.

I was in fact one of the seven directors of Exceptional Children Services for the whole state of North Carolina for several years. Now every school system has a _____ director of Child Services. Some of them are the assistant or associate superintendent levels now. At that time it was highly unusual. There were only seven of us. I was by far the youngest, very inexperienced, but also worked with a really good staff.

Someone asked me they wondered how I created my job and I said well anything that came across the superintendent’s desk that said exceptional children from Raleigh, he automatically put my name on it and it ended up on my desk. So I asked him one day what my job description was and he said whatever I put on your desk to do. So that was sort of what created it and the program grew. I left in 1972. I think I left with about 50 teachers and a full staff.

We were working at that time with children with almost every type of disorder that there was. We did a lot of work with children with severe disabilities with Greensboro city schools and actually paid the tuition for our children to go to Greensboro city to some of the consolidated services.

One of my other summer jobs was teaching children with cerebral palsy and other physical handicaps at the Greensboro Cerebral Palsy Orthopedic School, which is now Gateway Center in Greensboro. That was a fun kind of thing too.

Lack: What ages?

Wright: They were treating their upper elementary and probably middle school, junior high school age. I had a group of 17 nonverbal, nonambulatory children with two teacher assistants. They had not had a lot of teaching. There was a lot of emphasis at that time on the physical needs of the children, which were tremendous, but one of my focuses when I started was to start looking at trying to teach the children and trying to work around their therapy schedules and everything so that we actually did some instruction. The children responded to it quite well.

I remember some of the first things I did was a unit on, I’m trying to think, but I remember doing a time line for them and hanging up a clothes line and putting some facts up there and how excited they got at how much they were taking in even though they couldn’t express it. Most of the expression was with nonverbal kinds of cues, eye movements, hand movements, showing excitement, squealing, those kinds of things. It was a really challenging kind of position, but one that I appreciated having that opportunity in later years.

Lack: In special education, do you find that you work as a team often with the other professionals, therapists, psychologists?

Wright: You have to. Depending on the type of exceptionality, you have different compositions of teams, but I learned from that experience and then from some later experience with homebound and hospitalized children that the medical community is an ally and we needed as educators to work closely with the medical profession with a number of the children. That was something I had not been taught as a part of the teaching education program, but something I learned very quickly partly from the children and their parents and then partly from some medical colleagues.

Working closely with the physical and occupational therapists particularly at that time in a setting where all the services were provided, we did have quite a team. We relied heavily also on volunteers to help us with things like feeding. Our teacher assistants were invaluable. It really was a team effort.

Lack: You had to make sure to keep that positive experience or you lose people.

Wright: The other thing was also working with the parents. The parents knew their children very, very well and could tell you sometimes what a movement of an eyebrow meant or what a particular sign meant. I think it’s where I probably learned that special education had to be a team effort with everybody that was involved.

Lack: What was your experience at Appalachian State? You mentioned that you taught there?

Wright: I taught there one summer and I would have to check my records, but it was either ’62 or ’63. I was offered the opportunity to teach a methods course, methods material course at Appalachian State University to people preparing to be teachers. Then also I was to teach the demonstration school with the children. So in the mornings I taught the children and in the afternoons I taught the teachers.

In the mornings, the teachers came to my class to watch what I was doing, help me interact and so forth. This was at the campus school on the campus at Appalachian State University. Their school is no longer there. They don’t have a lab school, but at that time they had a K3- I think 8th grade lab school. This was before inclusion or mainstreaming. I remember meeting the principal and he expected me to take my children into the basement, close the door and not come out.

The first thing I said to him was to tell me about the schedule for the morning. He looked at me sort of funny and said why. I said that I understood that he offered art, music, physical education, library to the children that come, that that was one of the features of the school is that he had lots of enrichment kinds of activities for the children to enhance their learning. He just looked at me and said that my children couldn’t do that.

I said excuse me, I was awfully brave back then, I said excuse me, why not. All he could say to me was “You have John”. I said yes, that I had John and Mary and Susan that I had about 12 or 13 children, but what did that have to with it. He said, “Well I just don’t know”. I said, “Well I want to have library services and I want to have the other services for the children”. He kept saying, but there’s John.

Lack: Was that a child?

Wright: That was a child that he knew. This was a child of a rather prominent family and he knew him and he knew that he had cerebral palsy and was semi-ambulatory. I didn't know this at the time. I also didn't know he stood almost 6 feet tall. So I finally said at least he should let me take the children to the library. He said, “Well, there’s John”.

I still didn't understand and I found out later that the library was on the third floor. John had cerebral palsy, did not climb stairs very well and stood almost 6 feet tall. I made the brave comment, “We will go to the library and I will take John if I have to carry him on my back.” So finally he allowed it and gave us library time. I never did get the art or music. I did get P.E. I never really got as much art and music for the students as the other children got.

The interesting thing though with that is years later, I kept thinking that was in the 60’s and yet if I tell that story to my students today, some of them say they still can’t get those services for their children. So I think have we come as far as I think we have or not. Sometimes it makes me remember what it was like then, but still we’re fighting some of the same battles about the inclusion.

Lack: How did you get John up to the library?

Wright: Very carefully. I got one of my students to help me and I’d have someone walk in front of him and I would walk usually behind him and if we held onto the back of his belt to steady him and to use the handrail, we could get him upstairs. It was slow, but we did go and he did go to the library a couple times every week over that summer.

There were also a lot of other interesting things. This was only the second time there had ever been a class in Watauga County for children with special needs. They had one the summer before on the campus and this was only the second time. We had to go out and interview all the parents and the children at the beginning of the summer session and get the parents to agree to let a driver pick their child up and bring that child into downtown Boone from the outlying reaches. Some of my child lived in the Elk, some lived on Pigeon Roost Road, two lived on the back of Grandfather Mountain off Linville Road.

These were not children who were used to coming into downtown Boone on a regular basis. They were classified as mildly mentally retarded. Four of the children if I remember correctly were brain damaged. I had sisters there that lived on the back of Grandfather Mountain and in the process of doing home visiting, we had two or three interesting experiences.

One, we drove off Linville Road, there was this really nice looking house and I thought we were stopping there. All of a sudden I realized the guy is going past the house and I look up and realize we’re going through a creek. He just splashes through this little creek and pulls up and parks on the other side and says, “Okay, we walk from here”. I looked up and saw no houses close by. He said “Look up there on the side of the mountain, see that little house sitting up there”. There was literally a house sitting up there. It had a mowed one-acre around it with a fence and there was a little mowed path leading up to it.

You had to do some climbing. So we climbed up. This was where the sisters lived. We climbed up there. We were met at the fence with a yell from the house that says, “Don’t come any closer. The children have the pox”. Well it was chicken pox. They didn't want us to come close to the house. We stood in the yard and yelled back and forth and the mother said that the children could be picked up and would by ready by the next week.

So we started back and we had climbed up sort of an embankment 6 or 8 feet. The principal looked at me and he said, “Miss Boyd, if you’re going to fall please throw your weight against the cliff embankment. Don’t fall into that little ravine”. I said, “Well I really don’t want to, but what’s the problem”. He said, “That’s a rattlesnake gulch”. Now you have to realize I’m climbing up in this area. This is the 60’s. I am in a skirt, hose, high-heeled shoes. Nobody told me I was going mountain climbing to visit parents.

I’m not sure if it was the same day or another one, we went to visit another family. We had to drive up, stop, get out and to get to the house you had to cross a little creek. As we started across the creek on a little footbridge, all of a sudden the dogs started barking and someone started yelling. We look up and there’s a lady standing on the porch with a shotgun. She said, “If you cross that bridge, we’re going to get you”. And she meant not only her but the dogs (laughter).

We were driving a white car with a permanent license plate. They thought we were revenuers. We visited another house and we saw the jars that would hold moonshine as we walked down to the house. When we got to the house, sadly enough the mother was inebriated. The little boy that we wanted to bring into school probably also was and the two other children showed signs of having been exposed to the alcohol, which was really sad.

I think back now, fetal alcohol syndrome was not widely known at that point in time and I suspect both of those children were suffering from the effects of alcohol use by the mother. That little boy did come to school with us, but we had a hard time keeping him in the car. He wanted to jump out of the car every day on the way in to school. So it was an interesting summer experience and so many delightful children that had very little in the way of education.

Lack: Those are great stories. My goodness, the home visits.

Wright: I never taught a child that I did not visit his home or her home. My philosophy was you don’t understand the children if you don’t understand the home and most of the children I taught were from low socioeconomic backgrounds. Many of them were from farming families and many of their parents did not value education or if they did, they were afraid to interact. So the only way you ever got to see the parents was to go to the home.

So I started making the policy very early on. I did a lot of work with families when I was the director of Exceptional Child Services in Guilford County because that was one of my roles, was to help facilitate getting the children placed appropriately. So I did quite a lot of work with parents.

Lack: Did you have social workers that also did home visits?

Wright: No, we’re talking about the 1960’s. The only thing that we had was an attendance officer. Guilford County had two attendance officers or attendance counselors I think was the word that they used, for the school system. Their primary job was to try to cut down on the absenteeism and the dropout rate.

I also used one of these attendance counselors very much as I was doing home visits because we sometimes would not make home visits to a home by ourselves. If it was an area we did not know, a family we did not know, the school did not know where they lived or someone that could go with us, then she and I would do home visits. Many times there was a need for medical services or other kinds of services or that we had to interact with Social Services or the court system. Then she would help me, but we had no social workers whatsoever. She and her associate were the closest things that we had of social workers at that point in time.

Lack: Appalachian State was just one year?

Wright: Just one summer. It was over one summer.

Lack: What happened when you left?

Wright: The program continued. That next year they did incorporate the program into the public schools and as far as I know continued to grow and develop after that time. Not too many years after I was there, the head of the program left and I was busy doing other things and did not go back to Appalachian to teach.

I was trying to finish up a master’s degree and then I started teaching at Greensboro College doing materials and methods courses. I taught at Greensboro College five semesters, late afternoon. At the same time we were also developing some projects to work with children with learning disabilities in the public schools. My job expanded to a year round, 12-month position rather than the nine months I had been on when I first started.

I didn't have summers anymore to go work with the children like I had been doing and really missed that opportunity.

Lack: You had a job all year round, extra money I guess.

Wright: No, there was no time to do with it. It was a 12-month position. At that time I didn't know if we even had annual leave. I mean I knew I could take some vacation time, but there wasn’t any real accounting like there is now for the number of hours or the number of days. If you’re on contract, you’re on contract. Most of the time I went with a 12-month contract.

Lack: Well that’s a real interesting experience there in the mountains. How did you like Boone in the ’60’s?

Wright: I love Boone. Boone was a really neat place to be. One of the clichés, the Appalachian culture, I thoroughly enjoyed going out to a lot of the different areas. One of the women that was teaching there in the same summer as I was was an antique collector and so we did a lot of running into antique shops. Her thing was colored glass, all the different…satin glass, all the different kinds of glass that was colored so I appreciated that.

We went to the auctions, which are no longer there in downtown Boone. Friday and Saturday nights were auction nights. It was really interesting to go to some of the auctions. Also Richard Chase is an author of children’s books and he did a lot of the ghost tales and grandfather tales and things like that. He was there and we had a chance to talk with him.

We also took the children to ________ Road and the children had never been which was an interesting experience taking them. Also the mountain toys that are craft kinds of things. So I did a lot of exploring while I was there in addition to the teaching, particularly weekends. We’d have time on the weekends to try and slip away and go do some of the fun things. So I still go back. In fact I was in Boone just in September.

Again I did some of the same kinds of things. Went out to Valle Crucis Mast General Store and just thoroughly enjoyed the region. It is a great place to be in the summer.

Lack: It’s become a lot more touristy I would think.

Wright: Oh, it’s much bigger. The campus is bigger for one thing. It’s taken over the whole town it seems like. Much more of a tourist attraction than it was back then. Some of the charm is still there. It hasn’t all been lost. If you go out to Valle Crucis Mast General Store, it’s still very much like it was when I was there in the 60’s and very similar to what it was like way back at the turn of the century. So it’s still an interesting place to be.

Lack: You spent some time working out of state, is that right?

Wright: I did my master’s degree out of state. I did my master’s degree at State University of New York in Geneseo. But I did that only in the summers for the coursework I did there. It was a program where I could take some of my coursework here in North Carolina. So I took coursework at UNC-Greensboro and also at North Carolina A&T and transferred that coursework to New York to finish my master’s degree.

Lack: Is that the reason why you chose that program?

Wright: At the time I already had a degree in special education and North Carolina was just beginning master’s level study and I felt like I wanted a different perspective. I was from that western New York area and they had one of the early programs in special education. The director of that program, Dr. Rhodes, was one of the pioneers, true pioneers in special education.

Her background was from Ohio State, which was one of the early teacher preparation programs with Dr. ________. So it was a real opportunity to study with her and she also had someone who was on the faculty at Columbia there in the summer. So it was a really good teacher preparation program and it was beyond special education. It was a three way split in the program. It was one-third liberal arts, one-third general education and one-third special education.

I also was required to get my elementary education license at the same time. New York State does not allow a special education license without an elementary education license. So I was able to use that master’s and get my elementary license as well as add the graduate level licensure in mental retardation. So it was a really good experience. Got to do some observations at some programs in the Rochester area. It was a good program.

Lack: That was where you did your coursework…

Wright: I did about 9 hours in North Carolina, I did some English, history, math and sociology here in North Carolina, which was the liberal arts part. Then I did the methodology in both elementary and special education and research at Geneseo.

Lack: Really, so you would fly up every now and then?

Wright: I drove up. At that time there wasn’t much flying done and very expensive so I drove up. I spent the summers; I think I was there either three or four summers, spent the summers then with some of my family so I got a chance to see some of my family. Actually went back to graduate school with a woman who had started with me in second grade.

We went from second to fourth grade together. Then we went through our graduate program together. So it was really neat. We thoroughly enjoyed it. We commuted together one summer and our families had been really good friends. It was nice to go back and she and I still keep in touch with each other. She and her husband have been to visit within the last two or three years. That was an interesting experience too.

Lack: Did the research up there.

Wright: I did the research. I was working on the development of a curriculum for persons with mental retardation at the secondary level. I was able to come home and put that in place in the schools and that was my main focus then. Dr. Richard Hungerford is one of the early pioneers in secondary special education and he is from the Rochester area. So I was very interested in being where some of those things were done.

Did not get to interact as much as I would have liked in the schools there, but I did get some interactions in the schools.

Lack: I can’t recall. The last time we talked some about your research and your professional studies, but I suppose if you could just say again your research over the years has mostly been focused on special education.

Wright: It’s been focused all on special education. Research is probably not my strongest area. It’s one I’m interested in, but I keep getting sidetracked with service kinds of projects, but the research…I started some research and some historical research on special education at the secondary level and what would constitute appropriate curriculum.

My interest has always been in curriculum development or program development. So one of the things I did was research programs that had been effective at the secondary level and developed the first program in Guilford County and actually one of the early programs in the state.

Three school systems work together with an early program to transition students from the high school level into the work under the auspices of vocational rehabilitation. So we had a curriculum at the high school level that was a vocational preparation. It was based on the work of Hungerford out of the Rochester, New York area.

Then when I started on my doctorate, I wanted to pursue that same vein of looking at what was happening so my research for my doctorate was looking at what effects the competency testing movement had on students with mental retardation and learning disabilities and whether or not that made an impact in terms of how long they stayed in school, whether or not they finished, whether it discouraged them so they dropped out.

As I think one would have predicted, competency testing had a huge impact on students with mental retardation and learning disabilities because many of them could not pass. We found that the dropout rate was higher. It was the single best predictor of school completion of any of the others of socioeconomic, demographic, any of the other kinds of variables that were there including IQ, that the single best predictor at that time was the fact of the competency testing.

Lack: Is that the test, I don’t know if they still give it, but they used to give it to you in 10th grade?

Wright: 10th grade, right. It was a 10th grade competency test and North Carolina put it in in the 70’s. I was doing my research in like ’81, ’82, so there had been a time that had passed. Actually the competency testing came in the mid-70’s and it was a major factor. That was one of my interests and I’ve always wanted to go back and follow up on the students and see what happened to them in terms of what impact did it make later in terms of if they dropped out, what happened.

There have been a number of other researchers that have gone on and looked at the differences in earning capacity between those students who dropped out and those students who did not. High school program is still a real area of concern in special education because the dropout rate still remains high.

The No Child Left bBehind is going to address that, but we’re still finding extremely high dropout rates of children with learning disabilities, mental retardation, behavior and emotional handicaps, even the physical handicaps that don’t affect the learning as much, still a major issue.

The other thing that I’ve been interested in is the whole mainstreaming inclusion movement and looking at how special education and general education can better team to meet the needs of the children. The late Dr. Ann Lockledge and I worked together to develop a scale for rating how teachers actually co-teach in a classroom when the general educators are paired with a special educator.

We had some interesting things going and then we sort of got sidetracked because I got off into administration and there just wasn’t time to pursue it. Some other people have picked up on a similar line and looked at the different ways that people can co-teach. Co-teaching as a concept is two people in the classroom working with the children that are there.

We found there were at least four different models, we didn't know which was preferable, but four different models of how the special education teacher and the general education teacher would interact with the children, both typical and the children with special needs in that classroom setting.

We were having quite a good time trying to develop our instrumentation and with Dr. Rockledge’s passing, I’ve not gone back to that. I sort of haven’t had the heart to do that. I still have all the material that we developed, but have not gone back and looked at that.

Lack: Do you travel for conferences?

Wright: I’ve always done quite a bit. I try to always attend the American Association of Mental Retardation National Regional State Conferences. In fact, I’m leaving tomorrow to go to the regional American Association of Mental Retardation in Myrtle Beach for three days.

The American Association of Mental Retardation is a multidisciplinary group. It has medical doctors, nurses, occupational and physical therapists, speech/language pathologists, vocational rehabilitation personnel, educators, psychologists, social workers, the whole gamut of people. It’s very multidisciplinary. I really appreciate that because there are also people that serve that are interested in prevention all the way up through aging adults in any kind of setting, whether it’s institutional setting, community setting, school based setting.

It’s kept me abreast of the entire field of mental retardation. I really value that breadth of knowledge that provides for that interaction and what it can bring back to what I teach so that we don’t just look at a child with mental retardation in the context of the classroom, but we look at it as where are they likely to be as adults, what other services are needed, how can we help parents bridge all the transitions that have to be made whether it’s out of a neonatal intensive care unit or whether it’s into a nursing home or family care home as they age. That one has been an organization I’ve been with.

Lack: Do you try and go to presentations by people who are not educators?

Wright: I try to do both. If there’s someone who’s doing a presentation in education, sometimes I’m the one doing those. If there’s a presentation on education, I try to see what they’re doing. If it’s anything I’m not familiar with, but I try to do a lot of keeping up with things like how do you deal with behavior problems with individuals. What about the issue of dual diagnosis. What kinds of medications are currently being used and effective?

So assistive technology is what I’ve been pursuing lately, making sure that I sort of keep up with the latest in assistive technology, devices, augment of communication. You also need to keep up on legislation because there are a number of laws that impact on people with mental retardation in addition to the public school law.

Lack: That sounds good. So you mentioned that sometimes you’re the one giving the presentation. Are you on panels and things like that?

Wright: I’ve been on a number of panels. I’ve done some presentations. The most recent ones I’ve done is presenting the work that I did with developing online courses in mental retardation. I presented that a couple of times at a regional and even on a national level. Actually we presented one of our learning distance efforts with severe disabilities in Texas several years ago with one of my graduate assistants.

She and I presented using distance learning to help people be aware of mental retardation. So we have done some presenting in that area. Also do quite a number of either chairing panels, coordinating panels. I’ve coordinated a panel and presented one on inclusion, several things like that.

Lack: That is like research in a way. I mean you have to do a lot of preparation.

Wright: You do. It’s a different kind of research, but it absolutely…and we did do research on the people that took the courses and some of the demographics. We also had some data on perceptions of the teachers that took the courses in terms of why they took them, how they felt about them, would they continue and collected some data early on on the distance learning.

This was using the two-way interactive studios. We were working with UNC-Charlotte in a collaborative project at that time. Then I’ve also presented on my own online courses that I’ve developed that are strictly web-based.

Lack: Since you’ve been to these national conferences, how would you say North Carolina ranks with other states in terms of special education?

Wright: North Carolina as a state is hard to rank. I’m trying to think, we probably fall sort of in the middle about like we do in other things. North Carolina is still suffering from low teacher salaries, high teacher turnover particularly in special education, lack of teachers appropriately trained.

On the other hand, there’s real pockets of positive kinds of things particularly in more metropolitan areas. Our center in Chapel Hill, the Frank Porter Graham Center for Child Development is highly recognized for its work with young children with special needs. The Teach Center at the University of North Carolina Medical Center also is one of the leading centers in autism in the nation.

Duke University has one of the early speech and language programs. The schools probably rank somewhere in the middle and it’s going to vary tremendously depending on the wealth of the school system. The higher ranked school systems have more services. The lower school districts have minimal services. That doesn’t mean children in the lower ranking don’t get a good education, but there’s not the range of services there that you find.

The further you move from the metropolitan centers, the less concentrated the services, they lower in availability. But I think that’s true in every state.

Lack: What would you say are some words of advice, you can just name some, important ones, that you give new graduates in special education? What’s important for them to know now in this day and age?

Wright: Always keep learning. Sometimes we do words of wisdom to our students as they’re leaving the internship semester and mine is always keep learning. If you only rely on what you already know, you’re not going to be effective. You have to always keep learning. I tell them, I try to model that, that I learned how to use computer technology when I was well over 50 years of age and keep learning new programs every day.

You have to keep learning because it’s not a field that’s going to sit still for very long. It’s always changing and you have to be able to learn new techniques, new ways, new things. The second thing is to work in a team. Don’t try to work in isolation.

Lack: Those are good things to remember. Now you are in your first year of phased retirement?

Wright: No, this is actually my third. This is the last year of phased retirement so I’ve been three years on phased retirement.

Lack: What have you been doing?

Wright: Well what I’ve been doing since I went on phased retirement, I’ve been working half time in special education primarily teaching courses in either mental retardation or an introductory course. I still am active with the special education committee at the departmental level.

I also am still active statewide with the cooperative _____ consortium which is an advisory group to President Broad with the university system. Also with statewide effort at offering online courses. So I’m still very active in those areas. I’m also a reviewer for NKCEC. I review folios that colleges and universities prepare to have their programs approved. I’m still doing that.

So I’ve not retired per se. I still am very active. I try to work about half time. The fun thing is I’m doing things that I thoroughly enjoy doing without some of the other kinds of things that are a little more onerous at the faculty level. I’m not involved with research at this point except keeping very current with what I’m doing as far as doing formal research.

I really am not doing presentations right now. I am more into continuing to serve our students and particularly working with teachers who are needing to get appropriately licensed. That’s my focus with online courses and also working on the program development.

Next year I’m not sure what I’m going to be doing. I’m talking with the dean and department chair about continuing some activities. The Watson School history project is one I’m just beginning. Since I’ve been here so long, I feel like I am ancient history (laughter). So I’m starting a project with the Watson School of Education to try and document the history as we’re moving into our new building, some of the early history of the pioneers that came before us.

I’m sort of looking towards building for the future on the shoulders of the past for lack of a better way of putting it. So that project and still want to continue with some of the online kinds of efforts. School of Education is going to have to redo all of our teaching licensure programs in special education within the next three to five years. Right now I’m coordinating that effort in trying to get some other people prepared to take that over. So I probably will continue that for a little while longer.

Lack: Are you on a contract…

Wright: That would be my assumption. I’m still negotiable for another year or two.

Lack: What else do you like to do when you’re not working? It sounds like you’re very busy. Are you a type A personality?

Wright: I probably would qualify as type A. I’m not a good sitter for very long. Our garden has been a really big thing. We had to totally redo our landscaping after the hurricanes of 1996. We had to rebuild the outside of our house, do some repairing inside and totally redo the landscaping. So we’ve been very busy over the last four years particularly with landscaping and getting the yard so we’re pretty happy with it.

We added a room. I have a grandchild who just turned 3 and his family is in Raleigh so we try to spend as much time with them as we can. They’re building a new house so I’m sure come January, we’re going to be very busy helping them move. I also am interested in genealogy and I’m doing some work on my family’s genealogy.

On my maternal grandmother’s side, we can trace the family back 14 generations and that’s really exciting. She was of French descent and so it’s been real interesting to see what some of the family has done with that. I can go back probably 7 generations in a couple of instances. Some people on my husband’s side also have done work on the Wright family. So we’re having a lot of fun playing around with that.

We also travel. We just got back from Quebec City in Canada taking a trip from Boston, Massachusetts to Quebec, cruising which was wonderful. We took a trip out west last summer, drove about 8,000 miles, went to 16 states. Just had a wonderful trip seeing the Grand Canyon, the Carlsbad Caverns, the Houston Space Center and places we’ve talked about. We’re now preparing to go to Alaska in June and then we want to go to Hawaii.

Our goal is to see all 50 states so we’re going to try and do that and then work on the provinces of Canada in between and then perhaps do some European travel again. We were in Scotland, Ireland last summer. So we would like to go back to the British Isles. I’d like to go to some of the Scandinavian countries. My husband would like to go to Germany. Lots of travel plans.

Lack: Have you always been interested in travel?

Wright: Yes, that’s a longstanding interest. He and I both have always liked travel. We always say that’s one of the best things we do together, is travel. We really do like to travel. So we’re trying to build our schedules and have enough flexibility that we can travel. He retired December 31 of this past year so he’s flexible. If I’m only working part time and now with the Internet, you can work from anywhere so that’s exciting.

Lack: That’s good and bad I guess. Well thank you very much. Is there anything else that we haven’t covered?

Wright: I’m not sure at this point (laughter). It’s hard to keep track of it, but I think we hit all the high spots. I particularly wanted some of the Guilford County experiences because I think, I don’t often reflect on that time. That was 12 very exciting years of my life in a very early time in special education. We were there prior to 94-142. There were no resources specifically for special education.

I used to laugh and say we had to beg, borrow, cheat and steal everything that we got, but it was a lot of begging. A lot of negotiating with people to get the services that were needed so it was an exciting time and it was fun to be able to go back and reflect on that period of time as well as what’s happened here at the university. So two very significant periods of my lifetime.

Lack: I appreciate your contributions. Thank you Dr. Wright.

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