The children, all of them so different, so special, so vibrant. I cherish the memories I have of them. On occasion, I will sift through those moments and gaze on the photos of them that I had snapped with my mind’s eye. I see their young faces, and if I am very still and listen I can still hear them……
“Mrs. Webb, these milk jugs stink. Are you sure we can use these?” (I, as a young novice teacher, was gathering milk jugs for an art project and had neglected to thoroughly rinse the plastic jugs. Shew. On to plan B!) Malisha was my helper that first year of teaching. A big heart and a big smile. Even as a nine-year-old, she knew everything about everybody in our small town. I loved that girl.
“Mrs. Webb!!!!!!” (Luke was severely intellectually disabled, but he knew his teacher.) He proceeded to run at me down the aisle of Walmart and tackle me to the ground in a hug. His parents were embarrassed by his display of affection, but I didn’t mind laying on the floor, staring up at Luke’s ecstatic face. I was blessed to be so loved.
“Mrs. S, pat belly? Baby?” (Lori had Cri-du-Chat Syndrome and was intellectually disabled.) I was pregnant the entire year I had Lori in class. From the end of August through May. Lori was amazed by my growing baby bump. Her dear mother had explained to her there was a baby growing inside. When I left school three weeks before the end of the year to have my little boy, Lori’s mom asked if they could visit me in the hospital to see my son. It was the culmination of months of anticipation for his arrival. Her face, that sweet innocent face, as she stared in amazement.
“Listen, you $#%**#$@!! You can’t tell me what to do!” His little face was covered in snot, from a perpetually runny nose. He was only six years old but tough as nails. I always liked this little guy, even though he threatened my life on a regular basis. This little boy is now in prison for assault with a deadly weapon, and gang activity. It makes me sad. His little face haunts me. I often wonder what else could have been done.
“Raise the roof! Let’s give it up for Jesus!” Shea was a perpetual ball of ADHD energy, who would often interrupt my lessons with her impromptu come to Jesus meetings. She always made me laugh and drove me nuts too. How could you not love her? She was genuine and unfiltered. Boy, was she unfiltered!
“AAAAAAAAAAAAAA!” His screams reverberated off the walls. This kindergartener had autism and he was in a full-blown meltdown. Throwing himself to the floor, kicking and screaming, and I felt helpless. He was overwhelmed and at the time, so was I. This little guy became one of my favs. He taught me a lot over the years I worked with him. All of my students on the autism spectrum brought something different to the table, and for that I am grateful. Each unique and special in their own ways. These kiddos were the beginning of my passion for this population.
The students I have been so very blessed to have in my life…through public school, homeschool, tutoring and consulting. Some for a short time, some for much longer….each left with a part of my heart. Each leaving an unforgettable impression on me. My cup runneth over.