Saturday, June 11, 2011

The Graduate

It's rare that a teacher gets to keep up with a young student throughout all of his school years, so I feel especially lucky to have watched Trevor bloom into such a strong young man. (That's his little inquisitive head poking up on the right of the picture!) Trevor actually entered my preschool class for children with disabilities as a two year old. It was a paper glitch because children could not come until their third birthday but once he was there, I just kept him. For ten years I taught a class for three and four year old children who were identified with learning disabilities, language difficulties, attention deficit disorder and children on the milder end of the autism spectrum. Often children were identified who were just delayed a bit, but it was a wonderful assembly of little ones who needed a strong educational start. Trevor was the cutest kid ever. I told his mom that his smile lit up the room... and it did. On the first day, his mom looked scared to death - more nervous than Trevor! I am sure she was questioning her decision. I am sure it was extremely difficult for her to hear that her handsome young son might have a problem, for her to trust him to someone she didn't know, and then for her to leave him in a class with children that all looked or acted just a little different. She knew Trevor was smart. It was evident from the first minute you met him, but he had difficulty making his needs known and that frustrated him. The frustration in this tiny two year old came out in the loudest tantrums ever! I'm sure his mom had been embarrassed on many occasions in the grocery store or at family outings by her son kicking and screaming. She probably stood her ground initially but his shrieks would wear anyone down and then when she finally gave in, it just meant that the next time, he would scream louder and longer (I told you he was smart!) By the time he entered my preschool class I'm sure he was pretty much running his household. His parents knew it had to stop and there was something wrong, but I'm also sure they really struggled with what to do. I so admire his mother for having the courage to do something to turn it all around. On that first day his mom's eyes pleaded with me for help. She wore her fear for her son like a cloak wrapped tightly around her heart.

Trevor was a challenge. Often other teachers and parents walking down the hall would peek their heads in to make sure everything was all right as Trevor's screams pierced the air. However, with time and consistency Trevor found ways to make his needs known and ways to ease his frustration. With speech and language infused into every moment of his day, he began to use his words. He was eventually identified with a learning disability in language but because it was identified so early - because his mother had chosen early intervention, we knew there was a good chance that he would learn to compensate for those early challenges. After two and half years in my class he left for a kindergarten class in another school. It was no surprise that he did well and learned to read on schedule. After a year I transferred to the school where he was so I ran into him and checked on him often. During those elementary years he tested out of the program (we all celebrated!) because he no longer needed the extra support. I ran into the family again as his younger sister entered school and was in an inclusion class where I had students. His family spoke out eloquently as I went through the Teacher of the Year process. I cherished their voice. Their words still bring tears to my eyes. Over the years, I would run into Trevor, his sister or his mom. This year I ran into Trev at a local fast food restaurant where he had an after school job and he reminded me that he was a Senior. Last night I had the thrill - the absolute thrill - of watching him receive his high school diploma. I was so proud! He will go on to college. His mom told me that he'd really like to work in theatre and had been bitten by the acting bug. I know that whatever he does, he will be successful. I have to credit his mom's courageous decision so many years ago, to do whatever she had to do to make a difference for her son, for his success now. Early intervention put him on the right road but it is his family's dedication and commitment along the way that has made the difference. Thanks, Trevor, for giving this teacher such an incredible gift! And yes, your smile still lights up the world!

1 comment:

Melanie Holtsman said...

So many times we send children on to the next grade and lose touch with their lives and what our impact has been. How gratifying that you were able to keep touch with his family and see this young man blossom into bright future ahead. Congratulations on being his teacher and to his parents for being such strong advocates!