This I Believe
I believe the human spirit can overcome any obstacle. Birth defects, injuries or any other life challenges are no match for the human spirit.
Antwan was assigned to the cross-categorical special education classroom that I assisted teaching. When he came to us, he was an eleven-year-old fourth grader. He entered the world, born to a drug-addicted mother, suffered multiple abnormalities, encephalitis and heart disease to name a few. Antwan had previously undergone brain surgery to relive fluid build-up and numerous heart surgeries.
He was there because state law mandates a child his age attend school. His Individual Education Plan (IEP) reflected minimum goals and expectations. Antwan, the forth of nine offspring, six of whom including himself, having profound disabilities. The familial expectations for Antwan were that he merely existed. He had no concept of the difference between a letter and a number. Written words were coded communication he resolved he would never accomplish the ability to decipher.
Placed in a primary reading group after weeks of tutoring and encouragement, like a baby bird, Antwan began to spread his wings attempting to fly. He became persistent with his reading teacher wanting to take materials home to study each afternoon. Antwan’s math concepts began to emerge, first basic skills and before long, his spirit soared, he was head of class. Antwan’s thirst for knowledge continually challenged the teaching staff to supply appropriate and challenging curriculum.
Antwan continued his education after high school, going on to college. On occasion, we talked and he informed me of his recent accomplishments. During our conversations, he proudly announced that he aspired to become a teacher. Seeing him with fellow students one would never guess the obstacles, he overcame to become a collegian.
Summer of 2001, Antwan succumbed to heart failure during open-heart surgery. I believe that Antwan’s spirit remains in the hearts of those he touched with his winner’s attitude and self-determination. After the funeral services, coworkers and I shared memories realizing, no teaching certification could make Antwan anymore of a teacher; he had taught us all lessons of the human spirit.
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