Excellent Educators: Camden special education teacher recognized by peers for work during pandemic

Excellent Educators

CAMDEN, N.C. (WAVY) — All month long, 10 On Your Side is highlighting teachers who’ve gone above and beyond for their students during the pandemic.

It’s been a challenging year for educators and students, but at Camden Middle School, Mrs. Colleen Lyston has proven if there’s a will, there’s a way.

Her peers voted her the Camden Middle School Teacher of the Year.

For 26 years, Lyston has devoted her time to the classroom.

As an Exceptional Children’s teacher at CMS, she works with a wide range of special needs students including those with intellectual and mobility challenges.

“It warms my heart,” Lyston said. “Being able to find a way to connect with them, I take them from where they are and lift them up without any judgment about where they should be.”

Lyston has adapted to a lot of change in the profession, but she said she never would’ve imagined the changes she’s navigated over the last year.

“I didn’t even know what Zoom was then so it’s been a steep learning curve,” Lyston said.

She teaches her students everything from English to life skills. Lyston said transitioning special education to remote learning was a daunting task.

“Normally in the classroom there will be a lot of hands-on activities and stuff, and of course we couldn’t do all that,” she said.

So Lyston got to work, researching resources and finding ways to keep her virtual classroom engaged.

“I had to find something they could look at on the screen and interact in some way and still make it fun,” she said.

Principal LeVar Mizelle said Lyston made the process look easy.

“Remote learning was not the best option for them but you know, with the state that we were in, she made it happen,” Mizelle said.

Lyston admits it wasn’t always easy but her students pushed her forward.

“What has kept me going is as hard as it might be for me, I know it’s much harder for my students and their families,” she said.

Now back in the classroom, Lyston said it’s a bit of a balancing act trying to juggle in-person and remote learning simultaneously.

However, she said watching her students grow despite the challenges makes it all worth it.

“It’s just a privilege and I really appreciate all the support that everybody’s giving me,” Lyston said.

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