Growing up in Arlington Heights, Illinois (outside of Chicago), I struggled with learning. Being made fun of by classmates and teachers as well was an everyday occurrence. It was clear to my parents that I was not a dumb child but no one could seem to get me to learn in the manner or the way that the “Normal Kids” were learning.

My second grade teacher, Mrs. Stein, went as far as to tell my parents not to expect me to get anything higher than a second grade education. I just could not keep up, comprehend and/or retain at the same level that my classmates were learning. My fourth grade teacher, Miss Jones, because I struggled following along on those stupid learning story strips that were projected on the wall, proceeded to call me “Stupid” in front of my entire class, all this because I could not follow the reading as it was going too fast and hence I could not answer the comprehension questions at the end. I was mortified as any child or adult would be!

It was not until the Saviors of my education came in the fifth grade. We got a new special education teacher, Mrs. Rosenthalwer. Between her and my fifth grade teacher Miss Calhoun, they discovered that I had trouble tracking with my eyes and they suspected other issues as well. It was because of these two women along with my new eye doctor (who Mrs. Rosenthawler recommended), who went out of their way to find out why I was not learning. They determined that I had several eye issues that were not picked up on in the school’s basic eye test. I had perfect vision but I had issues tracking due to lazy eye (amblyopia), astigmatism and a slight case of dyslexia. With all of these issues it made it very difficult for me to learn to read. If things were explained or read to me aloud, I was fine — but back then they did not do things that way.

I worked with Mrs. Rosenthawler, Miss Calhoun and Dr. Lederer that entire year on teaching myself to read. I spent many hours a week for years at Dr. Lederer’s office doing eye exercises trying to correct the vision problems that had gone undetected until Mrs. Rosenthawler discovered a problem.

I credit these two women and Dr. Lederer with changing my future forever. Without them, who knows where I would be! Contrary to Mrs. Stein’s prediction, I have two associates from Harper College, a bachelor of fine arts from Rochester Institute of Technology, a teacher certification from Ashland University and only two classes left to finish my Masters in Education from Ashland University. That’s right; I myself am a teacher today because of them. I try to look at each student as an individual who has many learning styles and strengths and weaknesses.

Every child does not fit neatly into a box — so why do we as a society keep trying to fit them into it?

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