It's easy to believe people when they tell you that you aren't deserving of certain opportunities. It's easy to believe people when you're young, and they tell you that you simply aren't worth wasting the time to educate because you require additional support due to having a learning disorder. But, it's much harder to rise above that crippling criticism and find a way to overcome preconceived notions, succeed, and eventually thrive. As difficult as tackling these hurdles was, my online school helped me do exactly that.
It was not always an easy journey. In addition to having special needs, I was diagnosed with Crohn's disease when I was sixteen. This made it even more challenging for me to succeed in a traditional classroom. The struggles I was having in a brick-and-mortar setup led me to take my academic journey in a new direction and enroll at Insight School Washington (ISWA).
After the negative experiences in my traditional classroom, I came into my new school with lingering apprehension. I held on to residual embarrassment about raising my hand or asking questions. My creative writing teacher, Ms. Teske, was the first teacher to ever believe in me and convinced me that I deserved the chance to learn. She began to strip away the paralyzing anxiety that had limited my success in the past.
Ms. Teske repeatedly went above and beyond what any other teacher had ever done to help me be successful. She took time to get to know me and understand what I needed to learn effectively, ensuring I always felt comfortable asking for clarification or extra help. As we moved through the lessons, my writing skills improved and I began to gain confidence. For the first time, I believed I would be successful in all of my classes.
I graduated high school with a perfect 4.0. I was more than ready for college at Seattle Pacific University—I had the confidence to confront anyone who ever told me I wasn't worth supporting.
Upon arriving at school, I decided to major in special education because I wanted to be the Ms. Teske for all the students out there who were just as hopeful, courageous, and determined as I had been. Ms. Teske taught me more than what it means to be a good writer or good student. She taught me the value of a truly phenomenal teacher and the lifelong impact this can have on students.
Earlier this year, I learned of a job opening at my alma mater, Insight School Washington (ISWA). I jumped at the opportunity to rejoin that community. Today, I am a special education teacher and advisor at ISWA, working with students to help them learn how to communicate, develop life skills, and prepare for life after high school.
As a teacher, I want every student I work with—regardless of any challenges they may or may not face—to feel supported and worthy of the best education available to them. It was not until I enrolled in an online classroom and worked with teachers like Ms. Teske that I knew education could open endless opportunities for me. For so many other students out there, I hope I can open doors for them too.
KEYWORDS: Health Accommodations, Personalized Learning, Special Needs, Student Support, Teacher Engagement, Student Success