Angela Wrigglesworth ’99 is a third grade teacher and activist who strives to set the bar high. The Houston native has dedicated her career to shaping young minds in the classroom and inspiring others in her community to achieve new heights.
At the tender age of 16 months old, Wrigglesworth was diagnosed with spinal muscular atrophy, a disease that disrupts muscle development and prohibits her from walking. She has spent her life in a wheelchair but remains active in every facet of her life — especially in the classroom.
“There are many things in teaching that are not in our control. However, the outcome of the year depends almost solely on my approach and attitude every single day,” Wrigglesworth said about the classroom experience. “The third graders in my classroom leave at the end of the year having given their best because I have given them mine.”
For Wrigglesworth, the road to teaching was not discovered right away. She first attended Texas A&M as an undergraduate business major, knowing that she wanted to work with others.
“As an Aggie, I felt like I was a part of something great because everyone had such a service-based heart,” she said. “Everyone was trying to give back to their community —which to me, that’s what being an Aggie is all about.”
A series of life-changing events led her to change her major to elementary education. She often jokes about being “railroaded” into the teaching profession due to the location of her original business classes.
“I had to physically roll my chair over the railroad tracks every day in order to get to my business classes on west campus. It was very exhausting,” Wrigglesworth said. “One day in particular, my wheelchair short circuited on the tracks and I was stuck.”
Panicking and fearful for her life, Wrigglesworth was eventually able to reset her wheelchair long enough to roll herself out of harm’s way.
“I changed my major to elementary education that same day so that I would never have to cross the tracks to the business school again,” she said.
Since her time as a student, the university has made great strides in making the campus more accessible, including the addition of the Wellborn Underpass at Old Main, easing access to West Campus.
As an educator, Wrigglesworth works with students who come from multiple backgrounds. She helps to bridge gaps in her classroom by building relationships.
“One of the biggest things that I learned was really building relationships with my students," she said. “Fostering those relationships with my students is so vital to their success.”
Cultivating relationships has proven to be one of Wrigglesworth’s favorite parts about teaching. She believes it to be a key part of her effectiveness as a teacher — which helps in motivating her students.
“I think it takes real grit to be successful in school in the year 2016,” she said. “My philosophy is to teach the children to never give up. I think children have to persevere through all of the circumstances going on in their lives so it’s my job to teach them that.”Tweet This.
Outside of the classroom, Wrigglesworth maintains a platform of growth for others. In 2004, she competed in and was crowned Ms. Wheelchair Texas. She was also the third-runner up in the Ms. Wheelchair America pageant that same year.
In 2005, she founded the Ms. Wheelchair Texas Foundation, a program for women of all ages based on advocacy and disability education across the state.
“After I finished my year of serving as Ms. Wheelchair Texas, I was asked to take over the program,” she said. “With the help of two other founders, we created our own nonprofit organization with the hope of eliminating stereotypes that plague the disabled population and bring issues that impact millions of Texans with disabilities to the forefront.”
Wrigglesworth currently serves as State Legislator for the program and is in charge of recruitment. She is also a liaison to the Ms. Wheelchair America Board of Directors. Her efforts continue to help and inspire people within her community. More information can be found on the Ms. Wheelchair Texas website.