From Student Activist to Active Teacher


Wyglendowski was recently promoted to supervisor of the special ed department. She now also handles the new requests for students who might need special education, as well as managing the staff of special ed teachers.

Madisen Snyder , Layout Editor

Alumna Nicole Wyglendowski (‘13) knew she wanted to be a teacher ever since she fell in love with reading. She can’t remember ever wanting to be anything else.

It all started with her teachers at Port Colden and Brass Castle, who taught her how to read really well at an early age.

            “I just loved school and wanted to be a part of making other people love school, too,” said Wyglendowski.

While at Hills, she said it wasn’t the curriculum or the class content, but the people and real-life experiences that prepared her for her next steps in life.

“Mr. O’Neil’s classes in History and English were the classes that best prepared me for college,” she said. “Mrs. Giamoni prepared me for handling difficult situations in life. Mr. Smith taught me to have an open mind and be an advocate for things I believe in.”

After high school, she went to Rowan University and graduated in 2017 with degrees in English, Elementary Education, Special Education, and Middle School ELA Education.

Following graduation, Wyglendowski was awarded a one-year Fulbright scholarship to teach English as a second language in Taiwan.

“I didn’t know any Mandarin, a single soul on that side of the world, or what I was getting myself into, but I went,” she said.

Wyglendowski said she got a motorcycle license and drove to her school on the East Coast of Taiwan, and taught with a view of the Pacific Ocean in the background.

“I learned some of the language, tried foods I could have never dreamed of, and learned the kind and loving culture of the Taiwanese people and history,” she said. “I met other scholars from all over the United States who are now my closest friends. I inspired my students to travel to America and learn English so that they have a world of opportunities. I miss Taiwan every day.”

After returning from Taiwan in July of 2018, Wyglendowski started her new career as a special education teacher for the School District of Philadelphia, where she teachers grade K through 2 in literacy and math using a specially designed curriculum.

Wyglendowski said her favorite part about teaching is when the students learn to trust her.

“Where I teach in the city, my students’ first instinct is not to trust,” she said. “They test me in many different ways, but I show up for them each and every day and genuinely care about them. This takes time, but they eventually see that I am someone who is fighting for them, not against them.”

She said her reasons for wanting to be a teacher have changed, but wanting to be a teacher never has.

“I used to like the idea of organizing materials and decorating a classroom and reading all day,” she said. “While I still do like that idea, I am more fueled by the idea that without equitable education, we have no equitable democracy. I like to think that I am fighting on the front lines for democracy and a fairer country every day.”

One piece of advice that she has for high school students is to dream big.

“I want you to try everything that life has to offer, even if it’s just once,” she said. “I want you to be kind and give respect even when other people do not deserve it. I want you to understand you are a very important part of a very important world.”