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Great Circle Educator Celebrates 35-Year Career Helping Under-Served Students

Great Circle Educator Celebrates 35-Year Career Helping Under-Served Students

St. Louis, Mo. (Nov. 18, 2015) – Peppy Howard-Willms has been ferociously committed to bringing high quality educational opportunities to some of the area’s most vulnerable students. 

This past month, Great Circle, one of the largest nonprofit behavioral health agencies in Missouri, honored Howard-Willms for her 35 years contribution as an educator and pioneer in spearheading services for children with emotional and behavior challenges, autism and communication challenges.

She began her tenure in 1980 as a special education teacher at Edgewood Children’s Center in Webster Groves teaching older boys with academic and behavioral challenges.

Through the years, Howard-Willms has worn many "hats” – teacher, principal, special education director, head of human resources, regional vice president, COO, and substitute nurse  –  just to name a few.  Most recently she served as Great Circle’s vice president/chief program officer for education. 

Her impact on students needing educational services has been extensive. In 1998 she helped save a smaller agency serving children with communication disorders and autism and facing financial difficulties by arranging its merger with Edgewood Children’s Center.

In 2009, Metropolitan School for students with social disabilities closed unexpectedly. Howard-Willms responded to the needs of frantic parents and opened a school to serve those students.

Howard-Willms oversaw the creation of a residential program for children with autism, one of the first of its kind in Missouri.

Under her leadership the education program achieved full accreditation from Independent Schools Association of the Central States, the leading accreditation body for private schools in the Midwest.

Many school districts in the St. Louis metropolitan area have students with emotional and behavioral disorders, diagnoses on the autism spectrum or social skills deficits, but do not have the capacity to provide these services. Under Howard-Willms’ direction, Great Circle provides these services to more than 40 school districts in the metro area, including Illinois.

Great Circle held a reception honoring her 35 year-career. She will continue to consult with the agency on a part-time basis.