August 16, 2023

Linda Lawton, a level 2 teacher and interim education coordinator for The New England Center for Children’s (NECC) Intensive Instruction Program (IIP), joined NECC four years ago to begin her career in autism education. And although Lawton will be leaving NECC at the end of this contract year, she will be moving onward and upward in her career thanks to her time at NECC. During her tenure, Lawton made an impact on her coworkers and was nominated for Staff Spotlight because she “is an exemplary teacher, who cares deeply about her students. Their needs and advancement are at the front and center of everything she does. Linda’s innate sense of compassion allows her to understand her students and their parents’ perspectives alike. She always makes time for others and her kindness and magnanimous nature have shone through from the beginning. She takes time to teach new staff, irrespective of her myriad responsibilities and busy schedule, in the most nondidactic manner possible. While imparting her wisdom and experience, she always finds time to reassure and encourage others, taking the time to let others know they are appreciated. Linda is an integral part of the team and exudes care and professionalism at every turn.”

What has been your favorite part of the job?

My favorite part of this job has been working with my students and seeing them work hard to accomplish new goals. There is no greater feeling than when your student begins learning something new and can accomplish the task at hand independently. When you get to see their parents’ faces light up because of how proud they are of their child’s accomplishments and progress, that is everything!  Knowing a student is capable and pushing them just enough to make them realize they can do hard things, and then seeing in their eyes that they too realize they can do hard things, that is the best part!

Why did you choose a career in helping children with autism?

Taking the teaching position at NECC was a career change for me. I worked in the insurance industry for 16 years prior to switching careers. When I decided to make the switch, my husband supported my move, but suggested that I “try” out a job in the education field before officially switching over. I agreed and worked as an ABA specialist in a sub-separate classroom in the Hudson Public Schools. It was there that I met some of my first students with autism. The love I felt for each one of my students was overwhelming! I was able to make solid connections with each of the students, and we worked together to make great progress throughout the year. It was there that I decided that I had to make the official change in career a reality. 


Initially I chose NECC after hearing about the Simmons University master’s degree program.  I knew that I wanted to pursue a career in special education and to someday have my own special education classroom in a public school. NECC offered me an opportunity to work within the education field while pursuing my master’s degree at the same time. Now having worked here for 4 years, I would have to say my time here has turned out to be so much more than just earning a degree and building my resume. It has turned into an experience that my family and I went through together. My children saw me work with residential students during COVID as well as maintain contact with my day students over Zoom. They also watched me work tirelessly to earn my degree while doing some of the hardest work I’ve ever done. This labor of love is something that has instilled in me, and them, what it means to work hard, build meaningful connections, and have no regrets for loving a career so passionately.     

 When did you complete the Simmons program, and how did it affect your teaching style?

I am happy to say that I completed the Simmons program in May and graduated with a Master of Science in Education with a specialization in Autism. My family now refers to me as “the master of the house.”  Earning my degree has taught me how to be a much more conscientious teacher who works to be as inclusive and accepting of each of my student’s strengths and needs as possible. Every learner is different and deserving of an education. It is my job to ensure they are being educated at their level with the right tools and at their pace. To do this, you need a solid team of people willing to all do their part for the betterment of each student.  Everyone at NECC helped me learn that!

You will be leaving NECC to continue your education career in a new position. Where are you going and what will you be doing?

The decision to leave was very bittersweet for me. I chose this job as a steppingstone, and it turned into much more than that for me. Everyone I’ve had an opportunity to work with has been like family. I am excited to say that I will be working in the Northborough Public Schools and will have my own special education classroom teaching third, fourth, and fifth grade students.

How will your time working at NECC help you in your next role?

My time at NECC helped me find out who I am as a teacher. I have learned from the hands-on experience working with supervisors, specialists, peers, students, and parents. Skills I acquired from the Simmons program coupled with working with each of my students have taught me how to differentiate educational tools to get the best out of my students. All of these skills will be my guide for my next role.

What is something you will miss about NECC?

I’ll miss the people, the support, and the love each and every one of us has for our students and their families. It is like no other! Everything we do at NECC is for our students. One of my very first co-workers and mentors told me when I started to remember that “when things get hard, just remember it’s for the boys (and girls).” She wasn’t wrong. It’s all for the boys! 

What is something about you that your colleagues might be surprised to learn?

I was a Massachusetts State championship cheerleader in high school. (A very, very long time ago!)

Who is someone you look up to?

I look up to my father. He taught me at a very young age what it meant to love someone unconditionally. My mother was very sick throughout my childhood and passed away when I was a senior in high school. My father worked very hard to keep my mother at home until the day she left us, while at the same time maintaining a “normal” childhood for me and ensuring I didn’t miss out on anything. He was a wonderful provider, a caring husband, and the best dad and role model anyone could ask for. Perhaps this is why I am so passionate about this career. 

What is your life philosophy or motto you like to live by?

I have two:

“In the end, we only regret the chances we didn’t take.” – Lewis Carroll 

“The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.” – Eleanor Roosevelt