Jennifer McCure, Special Education Teacher at Martino Junior High
When I graduated high school, I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. I didn’t know what career would be best for me, so I decided to go to a junior college with the hope that something would spark my interest.
At this time, I wanted to go to school and work full time, but my current place of employment did not allow for the flexible hours I needed. One day, I saw an ad in the paper to work as a classroom assistant for Trinity Services in an integrated daycare. I had no idea what it entailed, but thought I would give it a try.
[Working with these children] opened my world to love, compassion, and understanding.
I never really had any previous experience with children with disabilities, but for some reason, I felt compelled to interview for the position; it ended up being the best decision I have ever made. It opened up my world to love, compassion, and understanding, and it taught me endless life lessons. In the two years that I worked at Trinity Services, I felt loved and needed by those students more than I ever expected.
There was one very specific moment that I knew teaching was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. A very sweet, nonverbal, autistic boy around eight-years-old started attending the daycare. He had the biggest, most gorgeous grin, and he was always smiling. One day, after he attended for about six months, we went outside for our usual daily recesses. He wanted to be pushed on the swing endlessly. That was typical, but I wanted to try something different. I saw the speech pathologist working with the children all the time, helping them to sign and talk on their own, and I was inspired to try something new on the playground. I told him to ask me for a push by using sign language to say “more, please”. He couldn’t do it on his own yet, so I demonstrated it for him. He really wanted that push, so he quickly mimicked my signs. I was thrilled.
He was loving it, so I tried to take it even further. I knelt down in front of him and put his hands on my cheeks. I inhaled air and filled them up, and then deflated them with the sound a “p” makes. I did this a few times before I put my hands on his cheeks and asked him to say “push.” It was the most amazing feeling when he actually did it! I was so happy that I cried. I asked him to say it again, and he did! Words cannot describe how I felt that day.
When students come into my classroom, they are instantly family to me… they make my life complete.
From that day on, I knew that I wanted to spend my life creating, encouraging, and advocating for moments like that. I have been teaching for twelve years now, and I am proud to say that when students come into my classroom, they are instantly family to me. I love them like they are my own. Through challenges and successes, what little they may be, they make my life complete.