What Inspires You?

As a new Reading Kingdom blogger, I wanted to post about who I am, what I do, and why I do what I do. So my big question is…What inspires me?

When I was in 8th grade, I participated in the school’s peer counseling/peer tutoring program. I was assigned to a classroom of children with disabilities. While I am unable to tell you exactly what types of disabilities these students had, I can say that while I was taking algebra, they were learning single and double-digit addition. I would work 1:1 with each student in the class as a mentor and peer. I believe my teacher assigned me to this particular class because she saw something special in me. At the end of the school year, I won an award and savings bond for being a compassionate, caring student, in part because of the work I did with the students in that class. From that point forward, I knew I wanted to help people. I was uncertain in what capacity, but I knew I wouldn’t find myself in a business office or in retail.

People often ask me – “Why would you want to teach special education? Wouldn’t it be so much easier to work with ‘normal’ children?” Or I get “Wow, that is so admirable” or “You must be so patient” or “That’s so challenging. You have a big heart.” At the end of the day, it’s not really about any of that. It goes back to…What inspires me?

I received my bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education, which led me to pursue a master’s degree in Special Education. After 6 frustrating and restrictive years teaching special education in the public school system, I earned a doctorate in Special Education. I had to reach a level in which I felt some level of control over my career. A level where I felt I could really make a difference, without the burden of unnecessary restrictions and boundaries.

What inspires me? I am now a part-time co-director of a nonprofit private school for children with severe disabilities. Each day, I can make a difference. I can change a small part of my community, the lives of children and their families, and maybe even change the perceptions of those who look down upon individuals with disabilities. Any typically-developing child with learn to read and write and add and subtract. That’s the nature of being “typically-developing.” I never know how far my students will go. Each skill they gain is such an amazing accomplishment. It may be that they learn to play with a new toy or to find a hidden object or follow a new two-step direction. Each milestone is a time for celebration with the child and his/her family. Each fundraising event means bringing in donations to better the lives of children who are often over-looked or under-estimated. This inspires me to learn and grow as a professional and as an individual everyday.

So…What inspires you?