LINCOLN PARK — Dexter Wilde didn't expect to return to the halls of Lincoln Park High School anytime soon when he graduated in 2006, but nine years later he has become a jack of all trades at the school.
Wilde works as a full-time aide to students with disabilities at the high school, is an assistant coach of the academic decathlon and most recently was named the coordinator the school's writing center.
"I've kind of got my fingers in a lot of different bowls right now," Wilde said.
Each day the 25-year-old moves from class to class with a small group of children with autism, cerebral palsy and a number of other cognitive and development disabilities and helps them to succeed.
"It's a lot of work, but it's a lot of fun," he said. "I think because it always keeps me on my toes."
The program Wilde works with includes a dozen students.
When he graduated with a degree in English from Ohio State University in 2010, Wilde contacted his old school looking for part time work as a tutor.
That role has slowly grown over the years.
"I had no plans ever to work with children with disabilities," he said. "Not because I disliked them or was afraid or anything, just that it wasn't on my horizons at all."
Now, Wilde has fully embraced his role and is learning the ins and outs of teaching while at the same time helping his students.
In his rare free time Wilde is taking classes at night to earn his teaching certificate.
"It's always tough. Even though the kids are the same kids every day, every day is different for them, so every day is different for us," he said. "For us, our kids counting to five can be a struggle, but how you get them to count to five can be really really illuminating. So that’s where the art of the job and the pleasure comes.”
Wilde's after-school academic decathlon team just finished in seventh place during the city competition and is headed to the state tournament.
It's his first year helping coach the team ,which involves students competing in a series of tests, speeches and essays.
"I'm working with every level right now in this school, population-wise, from the highest level in academic decathlon down to our children with disabilities. " Wilde said. "I get to see the whole picture."