ATHENS — Katie Wheeler serves as the Athens-Clarke County School District’s Director of Homeless Education. She has been in this position since 2008. Wheeler is from Albany, but has called Athens home for the last 12 years. Wheeler attended the University of Georgia for undergrad and graduate school, getting degrees in psychology and social work. She knew from an early age that she wanted to work with people.
Grady Newsource reporter Charlette Hall sat down with Wheeler to learn more about why she chose this job.
“I knew I wanted to work with people, I’ve always known that since I was a kid,” Wheeler said. “I wasn’t sure in what capacity. What I like about this job is that I like going to people, instead of them always coming to me.”
The McKinney Vento Homeless Assistance Act was passed in 1987. The act is in place to make sure homeless students from grades K-12 can maintain educational stability.
The definition of homelessness is very broad for the students and families Wheeler assists. It ranges from people who are unsheltered, families who live in homeless shelters, domestic violent shelters, substance abuse and rehabilitation centers to families who live in motels, families who doubled up, unaccompanied youth who are students that don’t live with their parent or guardian for a lot of different reasons.
Now Wheeler has her own family, which helps put her job and certain cases into perspective. It also gives her a reason to fight harder families.
“When I go on a home visit and they have a child who is close to my child’s age, I put my daughter in their child’s shoes and myself in the parent’s shoes,” Wheeler said. “It has given me a perspective I’ve never had before, and that maybe you can’t have unless you care for a child or have a child.”