October 13, 2022

Though Alex Heggie has only worked at The New England Center for Children (NECC) in Southborough for two years, his connections with the organization date back more than a decade – and another continent. In 2012, Heggie was working for a small, independent day school in the heart of London that catered to students with a range of physical and intellectual disabilities when he met a student with ties to NECC.

“This student had an incredible supervisory team who travelled from NECC at least three times per academic year to check in on his progress,” said Heggie, adding that the student’s two-teacher team included one from NECC.  But NECC’s commitment to its student wasn’t the only thing that impressed Heggie.

“One of the teachers out of Southborough arrived at the school in Chelsea, London to train for the position in June of 2016 – we immediately hit it off,” he shared.  “One thing led to another, and, in August 2020, we were married.”

In the fall of 2020, Heggie’s school closed after taking a huge financial hit from the COVID-19 pandemic, so he and his new wife, Amanda Durocher-Heggie, who currently works as a training and implementations specialist in the ACE© department, returned to the U.S. to work for NECC in Southborough. He started as a level 2 teacher for IIP Cohort B but jumped at the opportunity to work in the Adapted Physical Education (APE) department.

“My passion has always been helping children with various diagnoses achieve and maintain a fit and healthy lifestyle,” he shared. “My favorite part of my job is being able to open up different environments for our students to enjoy, seeing the joy in students faces as they accomplish new goals in the gym or simply get back to enjoying the pool reminds me daily that my job is endlessly rewarding.”

Heggie shared that he ended up in this line of work by chance. He was planning to study law, though quickly realized that it was not for him. Simultaneously, his job working with an organization educating young adults made him realize he had a passion for education, so he became a traveling paraprofessional. 

“At each and every one of my assignments I was placed with a student who required additional support either within mainstream education or in a special needs setting. Seeing first-hand the difference that that level of support could make helped to cement that passion for education,” Heggie said.

At NECC, Heggie is taking advantage of furthering his own education through the Center’s partnership with Simmons University. “I have not only gained a deeper understanding of ABAs and its place in education but have also developed my sense of empathy for the population we serve which, for me, is priceless,” he explained.

As part of his master’s degree program, Heggie is engaged in research, something he believes is important to the future of autism education. “Education and its systems are forever changing and evolving. Research allows us to stay at the forefront of this necessary evolution and keep our systems updated and relevant,” shared Heggie. “Keeping up with education as it evolves allows us to best serve our population.”

He hopes to complete his doctorate one day (to keep up with Amanda who recently defended hers), possibly in the science of movement, kinesiology. “I am passionate about what I do so, as long as NECC has a need for passionate teachers, I hope to stick around,” Heggie said.

This article originally appeared in the fall 2022 issue of NECC’s Insight newsletter.