Verde Valley Educator of the Week: Shelly Wilcoxson

After close to 15 years in Christian education, Shelly Wilcoxson has been at Cottonwood’s American Heritage Academy since August 2016. (Photo by Bill Helm)

After close to 15 years in Christian education, Shelly Wilcoxson has been at Cottonwood’s American Heritage Academy since August 2016. (Photo by Bill Helm)

COTTONWOOD – After more than a dozen years as an educator in Christian schools, Shelly Wilcoxson moved to the public school system, specifically American Heritage Academy’s Cottonwood campus.

“I happened to find out there was an opening at AHA for Substitute teachers at which point I applied (to work on my days off at the preschool) and was offered a full time position as a Paraprofessional in the Title I department,” says Wilcoxson, who started working at AHA in August 2016.

The bulk of Wilcoxson’s Christian education was with 3- and 4-year-old students. She says she “always thought” she would teach preschool. In fact, Wilcoxson was “on my way to getting my degree in Early Childhood Education when I was hired at AHA.”

“I thought it was a great opportunity to see if I was better suited for elementary aged students,” she says.

“What I found was that I love teaching and developing a personal mentoring relationship with students. So I am now on my way to receiving my Elementary Education Degree.”

Says Cottonwood American Heritage Academy Principal Eric Evans, Wilcoxson “understands her role and her job as a reading paraprofessional in the Title I Program and she gets results.”

“She is a natural in the classroom and gets along great with the kids,” Evans says of Wilcoxson. “Miss Shelly’s skills and hard work has allowed us to exit kids from receiving Title I services, because they have met or exceeded certain benchmarks, test scores, and other criteria, indicative of their academic growth and success.”

If there’s anything Wilcoxson doesn’t like about teaching, it’s that “there isn’t enough of me to go around.”

“I love working with my students so much that I try to help too many at one time,” she says. “When a student of mine reaches a certain point, I have to pass them off to our coordinator who works with them two days a week as opposed to four days a week. That can be difficult for me.”


“I definitely have a student-based teaching style. Whether a student learns audibly, kinesthetically, visually or tactilely, I try to figure out which way works best for them and go from there. 

“I don’t only use that style, but I use a variety of these ways so each child is hopefully getting what they need. I give my students time to discuss the answers to questions before I give them clues to the correct answer so they can benefit from each other. “I am not just a teacher, but a facilitator for their learning experience.”


“This is the first time I’ve ever been nominated for anything, so I am very honored.”


“Patience is a virtue. When working with students that struggle in reading, you must be patient.”

“Not every child learns at the same pace. Some will learn immediately and blossom, others may struggle more and take longer to understand concepts.”

“The key is to meet them where they are, not where you want them to be and encourage, encourage, encourage.  Every little step is an accomplishment.”


“It took me a long time to figure out what I’m passionate about ... teaching. In the meantime, I poured into my own children and have never regretted it. 

“No matter how old you are, it’s never too late to learn and achieve your dreams. I may need someone to remind me of that while I’m taking my college courses this year.”


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