May 8th is Teacher Appreciation Day in the United States. When you Google teacher appreciation you find a website dedicated to not only the day, but an entire week.
On this site teachers are defined as follows:
Teachers – the people who educate us and give us the vital knowledge which we need to live our lives. They encourage, support, discipline and prepare us for the road ahead and now it’s time for us to show them our appreciation.
When I first combine the words teacher and appreciation, the name “Mr. Medina” comes immediately to mind. He is my daughter’s teacher and has been for four years. To say we adore him is an understatement, but I’ll get back to him in a bit…
Throughout my life, I attended school for 22 years, have worked in education for 17 years and have had a child in the school system for 10 years. It can be said with certainty that I have had a bit of experience with teachers. However, when I read the description above I realize that the word “teacher” extends beyond individuals with a degree in education
A little over a year ago I met a group of special-needs parents from all walks of life. Although they have degrees in diverse areas including, but not limited to, Physics (yes that would be our very own Professor), Criminal Justice, Political Science, Finance, Psychology and Social Work, I would consider each and every one of them to be a teacher. In fact, they are some of the best teachers I have had the privilege of knowing. They research, they learn and they SHARE. If you saw the amount of information flying over the World Wide Web each and everyday you would be amazed. I am blessed to have them in my life and have learned more from them in the past year than I ever thought possible. Simply reading some of the blogs posted by my fellow Thinking Moms has taught me some life changing lessons. Although I have daily contact with LuvBug in our groups, it was not until I read her blog on February 29th, “A Power to Heal” about her daughter’s asthma that I made the connection between the stomach pains my daughter was experiencing and her daily lung medications. When I described her symptoms to those in the medical community, my concerns were brushed off as not important as compared to the big picture. Big Picture? What exactly IS the big picture? Never mind. Just another question that would go unanswered.
It was if a light bulb went off, and I found myself in quite a conundrum. My daughter suffers from significant lung disease. I was told if I did not keep her lungs healthy, I would risk putting her through surgery to remove her lung. The very medications that were keeping her healthy were also making her sick. Crap.
Fast forward a little over two months and with the advice of LuvBug and many other “teachers” I was able to wean my daughter off of ALL but one of her eight lung medications, and that one is only an “as-needed” medication. Her medical doctor is on board with what I have done, but it is the real moms and dad in my life that TAUGHT me how to do it. This is just one small example of the amount of teaching that goes on in secret places all over facebook and in blogs such as this.
Today, On National Teacher Appreciation Day, I would like to thank all of you who have taken the time and energy to be my teachers. You have taught me about homeopathy, chelation, HBOT, supplements, special diets and, most important, unconditional love and friendship. I am a better mom and School Psychologist because of you and I raise my glass to you.
Okay, now back to the one-and-only Mr. Medina. When my daughter, who does not adapt well to change, was transitioning to the Middle School in our town that houses grades 5 through 8, I learned that she was also getting the newly-hired teacher. Groan. Although I was promised I would like him, I was skeptical –- to say the least. We were coming off a difficult year and I needed things to go well. More than that: I was desperate for things to go well.
It is ironic that I was nicknamed Saint, which was shortened at one point from Patron Saint of <insert any variety of things>. I have often stated that Mr. Medina is the Patron Saint of all-things Jazmine, and call him Saint Medina on a regular basis. I may be the Saint within this group, but the real Saint is Mr. Medina. Each time I hear my fellow thinking parents express concerns over their child’s teacher, I am reminded of how lucky we are to have him. Originally, he was only supposed to be her Math and Language Arts teacher for 5th and 6th grade. However, two years ago, after our state faced many last minute cuts to education funding; his duties were extended to include the 7th and 8th graders as well. I was so angry at our Governor, but could not help but to be thankful that we got to “keep” Mr. Medina for two more years.
It would take me a month of blogs to express to you just how special a teacher he is. He epitomizes EVERYTHING good. Each year I write a letter on his behalf recommending him as the district’s Teacher of the Year. Although they have not been wise enough to recognize his efforts (yet), I would like to share with you an excerpt from each year’s letter:
On top of many personal losses, Jazmine had found school to be very difficult and frustrating. Every day she cried as she told me that she was “stupid” and that her teachers hated her. Although I always tried to tell her differently, my words could not replace her feelings.
Then came Mr. Medina. He has been a blessing to Jazmine. He sees her as a person, and not just as a student. He encourages her, reinforces her and makes her feel good about herself each and every day. He has the amazing ability of challenging Jazmine without frustrating her. Although that may sound easy, anyone in education can tell you that it is a monumental task. Jazmine’s unique educational, emotional and medical disabilities only make this an even more complicated feat. What makes this even more outstanding to me is that Jazmine is not the only “unique” student in the room. What he does for her, he does for each one of his students.
I recently attended a seminar on “The Adolescent Brain” and was presented with research on how when kids are rewarded for effort rather than sheer brainpower, they are more apt to be successful in life. After each block, Mr. Medina rewards each of his students for giving effort when they do so. He is teaching them that hard work pays off. I have seen the positive impact this has made on Jazmine at home. She is willing to put countless hours into schoolwork now that she is feeling good about herself and earning positive grades based on her efforts. This is a wonderful change from the daily meltdowns we used to endure.
Mr. Medina takes the time to REALLY get to know his students and understand the best way to have an impact on them. I also believe that he works hard to “get” the parents of his students as well He has reached out to me on countless occasions to let me know how the day was going when he understood that she was having a difficult time. Oftentimes I was hesitant to contact him because I did not want to bother him, and then an e-mail would appear as if he was reading my nerve-wracked mind. I am a mom who, due the nature of my daughter’s disabilities, has plenty to worry about. The only time I have complete peace of mind when she is not with me, is when she is with him.
As evidenced by my past two letters I could not have been happier with Mr. Medina when my daughter was in his L/LD class for 5th and 6th grades. However, I was concerned that having him as her teacher again this year meant that she would be in a larger class with four grade levels of students who function at extremely different levels academically and emotionally. With the increase in students, I fully anticipated a negative change in Mr. Medina’s ability to communicate with me as well as provide individual attention to my daughter. Having a child with Special Needs brings with it a wealth of concerns and anxieties. I feel confident in saying that although all parents feel this way, it is exponentially greater with a Special Needs child. My daughter’s Multiple Disabilities cause me to always be at a heightened sense of worry. As I sat in Mr. Medina’s room during his Back to School Night presentation, listening to the other parents speak, I realized that I was just one of many. I looked around and realized that Mr. Medina was going to have to deal with what could possibly be the 11 most nervous, needy and demanding parents in the building. To be honest I felt bad for him and wondered how he could possible manage it all. I am pleasantly shocked, and happy to report that he has done so without skipping a beat. Never once have I felt that he has become too busy, or that my daughter is not having her needs met. In fact, I think he is so concerned that this will happen with all of his students that he goes out of his way to make the kids feel special and communicate with the parents. I often receive e-mails from him well after school hours, or early in the morning. As in the past, Mr. Medina continues to be the messenger between his kids and the General Education teachers. Anytime I have a question, he simply says “I will take care of it”. I am not sure how he finds the time to do so, but he does. I truly feel so well informed that it is as if I am there all day.
Bottom line – Mr. Medina is a phenomenal teacher, role model and person. He works extremely hard, yet, never hesitates to take on more responsibilities. He knows his students, knows how to motivate them, and knows when they have had just about enough motivation for one day. They respond to him and adore him. Mr. Medina has been kind enough to allow me access to his classroom to help celebrate special occasions much like the room representatives do in the Elementary School. I have enjoyed watching his interaction with the kids and see how they all compete for his attention. I am in awe of how they all seem to think that they are his favorite. In a room of children with varying disabilities and needs it would be easy for one…or 7 to feel slighted. This does not happen in Mr. Medina’s room. He reaches each of them on a social, emotional and academic level.
I realize that most people reading this are, as my good friend Sugah would say, “green with envy”. You should be. He is THAT wonderful and has been a blessing in our lives. On this day, along with the fabulous thinking moms and dads I would like to honor Mr. Medina as the tremendous role model, mentor and teacher that he is.
I wish we could take, as my daughter says, “MY Mr. Medina”, to high school with us, but we cannot. I find some comfort in the knowledge that Jazmine has some wonderful teachers waiting for her at her chosen high school — which also happens to be the school I work at. I consider many of them to be “thinkers” themselves. They read the blogs and have shared our videos with their classes. They, like Mr. Medina, understand that not all kids fit into the same mold. They work tirelessly in their best interest and I adore them for the work they do with my students and look forward to them teaching my daughter. Being a special-needs mom makes me more appreciative of what they do for our kids. They are amazing and deserve an insurmountable amount of praise. Now, I am not crazy enough to name names and get myself into trouble, but they know who they are 🙂
If you have a Mr. Medina in your life, or someone who is even a fraction as fabulous as he is, please take a minute to let them know how much you appreciate them today. It only takes a minute of your time to say thank you, but the impact of those words can last much longer.