This week is Teacher Appreciation week. Hear me out on my case for Student Appreciation Week.
I am a former teacher. For six years, between graduating from college until I started working with ConnectAbility full time, I spent my days in an elementary school. I always got a kick out of telling kids that I went to kindergarten every day. And I LOVED going to kindergarten every day!
I had the opportunity to work with some incredible teachers and school leaders that I still keep in touch with today. My short career in the classroom was an amazing learning opportunity and I am so grateful that it was part of my journey. For several years, I worked in fully inclusive kindergarten classrooms where kids of ALL abilities learned in the same classroom. There were kids with autism, hearing impairments, sensory issues, social skill delays, Down syndrome – lots of diagnoses that would have led kids to be in different classrooms and not interacting with their peers all day. It was amazing to watch all the kids learn and grow together. The friendships forged were genuine and the questions asked were simple. I worked with great classroom teachers and we worked together so hard to give every child an opportunity to learn. We made inclusion work because we never considered that it wouldn’t work.
Charlie began his kindergarten journey my first year teaching. We both learned together. A lot! He was a fun little guy – always enthusiastic – especially when it came to dinosaurs! Charlie had to work so hard to accomplish learning goals that other kids didn’t even have to try to attain. I remember practicing with Charlie how to respond when someone asked his name. How to wait his turn, share, play with other kids, ask other kids to play. And then there were academic goals too of course. The moment when a child learns to read words in a book for the first time is always magical and I remember Charlie and several other students learning how to read.
Many hours were spent in meetings with Charlie’s parents, other teachers and therapists to try to decide what Charlie needed to help him learn and grow. It was a team effort.
I had the opportunity to work with Charlie and his classmates until his second grade year when I moved to a different school.
Then I left teaching and Charlie moved to another community. I haven’t seen him or talked with him since he was in first grade.
Until today. When he was interviewed on his local tv station as the Scholar Athlete.
I can’t describe how proud I am to watch Charlie and hear him talk about overcoming challenges. I never could have dreamed that Charlie would accomplish as much as he has. He has come so far and I’m so excited to see how far he will go in the future. Put me on the list to be at the launch party for his comic book release!
It’s an honor to have been a tiny part of his journey to Scholar Athlete today.
So today is Student Appreciation Day. I appreciate Charlie, Kathleen (pictured above), Evan, Sam, Jonathan, Tabitha, Noah, Abby and all the other kindergarten kids I had the chance to work with at school who are graduating or getting close. I wish I could see you all and hug you and let you know how much you mean to me. You taught ME so much and I know you will continue to use your gifts to teach others. In fact, the lessons I learned in kindergarten have a huge impact on my daily work with ConnectAbility. It was from you that I first came to realize that everyone teaches and everyone learns.
I love Charlie’s challenge at the end of his interview to be yourself, to push yourself and keep going no matter what opposition you face.
And then, there you go. You nailed it Charlie.