Uplifting those who have "slipped through the cracks"

Ever since she was a child, Virginia Dukelow Wilson always wanted to be a teacher. She would often play school with her seven younger siblings, and when they were unavailable she would line up her dolls and stuffed toys and pretend they were students. She was also given the task as a Primary graduate at church to teach the nursery class. Wilson hasn't stopped since.

“I consider teaching my God-given talent and still love it. ‘Give me your hardest class,’” Wilson said.

Wilson earned her bachelor’s degree in elementary education from the David O. McKay School of Education in 1964, and then her PhD from La Salle University in educational administration.

Wilson started out teaching third and fourth grade. Later, she transitioned to teaching adults for the local high school adult diploma program, teaching classes for the local community college, and acting as Adult Literacy Program Coordinator for the local library.

“I have most enjoyed teaching students of all ages in a wide variety of settings meet their personal goals,” Wilson said. “I love the challenge of [helping] the students who have ‘slipped through the cracks’ renew their self-confidence and feel successful.”

One thing Wilson observed over her years of working with struggling students, regardless of age, is that desired results come from basic teaching techniques and from students knowing their instructors care about them personally.

She remembered teaching basic reading and writing classes, GED test preparation classes, and high school adult diploma classes simultaneously on Lassen College campus. The adults who were in her class never considered themselves “college material.”

“I remember two ladies, one a young single mother and the other a grandmother, who finished their high school work with me and went on to enroll in college classes and graduate. That was wonderful,” Wilson said. “Also, many older men would come to a point in their careers where they could not advance without a high school diploma or equivalent. I would see them later around our small town and they would give me a hug and say, ‘You changed my life.’ Wow, that made my day.”

Never in her career did she struggle with or question why she chose to be an educator. Wilson always knew she wanted to be a teacher and was determined to one day have her own classroom. She saw high school and college as required stepping stones to live that dream.

There was a point when Wilson had to stay home for a year to work before she could attend BYU. Several of her relatives mocked her efforts because they thought she would never be financially able to attend college. Through her efforts and some help from a kind uncle, Wilson was able to attend BYU and complete her bachelor’s in three years.

“BYU gave me the complete framework I needed to complete my goal of being a teacher,” Wilson said. “I was able to use many positive experiences I gained to have the confidence I lacked personally to go forward and become the person I hoped to be in all walks of life. I am eternally gratefully for having had the privilege to attend BYU.”

Outside of the classroom, Wilson and her husband, Nichol “Nick” Wilson, enjoy living on their five-acre property in Browns Valley, California. They are the proud parents of four children and grandparents of 17 grandchildren, with one more on the way.

Together, the Wilsons are active in their church callings as temple workers in the Sacramento California Temple, and Virginia currently serves as the first counselor in her ward’s Relief Society. Wilson also volunteers every week at a small library in a nearby mountain community.

Writer: Megan Bahr
Contact: Shauna Valentine (801) 422-8562