Sweet Talking Towards the Win

Speech Pathologist Awarded for Coffee Cart Concept


Carter Colvin

Mrs. Winkler goes with her students to give faculty refreshments from the cart.

Carter Colvin

Carter Colvin, Photo Editor

She walks down the hallway pushing a cart of pastries and drinks. As they approach their next door, she puts a stop sign in front of the cart to let her students know that it is time to ask their next customer what they would like. With a smile on their face, her students hand the customers their orders and look back to their instructor as she gives a big thumbs up. Little does speech pathologist Alicia Winkler realize that her work would reach across East Texas in ways she never imagined.

Speech pathologist Alicia Winkler will be awarded the Burtis-Vogel/Elkins award on behalf of the Texas Speech-Language-Hearing Foundation (THSF) March 1. Winkler submitted a video to the organization regarding the coffee cart project that the life skills kids participated in this year.

“I was excited when I won the award because I feel that there are so many awesome things that the teachers and life skills students are doing here,” Winkler said. “I love working with students with special needs and I have a passion to help students communicate the best that they can.”

Before she started teaching speech, Winkler was a kindergarten teacher at the Early Childhood Center. She now teaches at both high school and kindergarten levels as a life skills speech instructor.

“The life skills staff has been so helpful in helping me figure out some of the students’ needs,” Winkler said. “I love seeing the students be successful when they are trying to master a goal. It’s really fun, and they all have sweet hearts.”

Winkler was prompted to send the presentation to THSF when she presented the coffee cart idea at a Region 7 conference. Someone in the audience liked the idea and told her about the contest through the organization.

“This is really awesome because typically the people who win this award are colleges and universities or private agencies or much bigger schools than Lindale,” Backer said. “It was a really big honor for her to be recognized for her efforts in speech pathology considering we are such a small school.”

In addition to the award, THSF will grant a scholarship towards the coffee cart project. There will be a breakfast during the awards ceremony where advisors from the organization will discuss methods to fund the project’s future involvement.

“She has brought a new level of speech therapy for our students,” life skills instructor Lauren Backer said. “It’s been awesome to watch them grow under her direction.”

Winkler incorporates visual supports with her teachings to help students communicate more effectively such as using signs to direct students in the classroom. Additionally, she utilizes a robot called ‘Milo” that uses facial expressions to convey emotions.

“Mrs. Winkler has done a fabulous job with our students and introduced them to some exciting new things,” life skills instructor Meredith Grant said. “The kids are excited to learn from her, and she is doing great things with the program.”