Friday, May 29, 2009

My Favorite Student

Note to reader: I rarely tell details of my students' lives. Today I am making an exception. I think this student wouldn't mind. I am not using her real name. I am not showing you the better pictures I have of her face. She touched my life, and I feel compelled to write about her today. I hope her sparkle will shine on you as it has on me.

Should an educator admit to having a favorite student? I try hard not to compare my students and not to have favorites. But everyone who meets Zoey (not her real name) loves her immediately. How can she not be a favorite??

As an able-bodied 15-year-old student, Zoey was stricken with a rare and debilitating disease: NF-2. This disease causes non-cancerous tumors to grow inside one’s body. The tumors can wreak havoc on many systems and cause multiple physical disabilities. There is no known cure.

At 15, Zoey suddenly became deaf. By the time she came to my program at age 18, Zoey was deaf, had balance/gait problems, tactile insensitivities (bordering on numbness), and vision impairments. She walked unevenly and was supposed to walk with a brace on her leg. Soon the brace was not enough, and she was given a cane. Quickly the cane was replaced with a walker, and soon after that, she was in a wheelchair. The changes were occurring so quickly, it was alarming. I was very scared for Zoey's future and her prognosis. (Thank goodness her decline was slowed down with the hard work and care of many medical professionals.)

You would think that a teen-age girl who went from able-bodied to multiply physically impaired in a short time would have some bitterness. Not Zoey. Of course, she was sad and had a lot to deal with. But one would never know it upon meeting Zoey. She is a consummate optimist and happy, sweet, pleasant, smart, spunky, funny person. She brings joy to everyone she meets!

Today Zoey came to our office to graduate. In our program, students get their high school diploma at the appropriate time, which may be anywhere from age 18 to 21. Zoey is 21 and finally got her diploma in her hands today. We don’t have a graduation ceremony, so we try to make it special, and sometimes take pictures of them in a cap and gown that we keep in the office. Zoey graduated today. It was fun! It was special! It was sad! It is hard to say goodbye to a favorite student. She leaves a hole behind when she leaves our program.

Even though Zoey was sometimes sad and had so many challenges, she never let all of that take over her sparkly personality. Wherever she goes, Zoey leaves happiness in her wake. I will truly miss working with Zoey. I thank my lucky stars that she touched my life. I think it’s OK to say that Zoey is one of my favorites. She is one in a million!

Thanks for sharing your sparkle with me, Zoey! I heart you!


Darcie said...

Congratulations to Zoey! What a heartwarming story of courage and perseverance!

Dolores said...

What a beautiful post about a beautiful young lady. Congratulations to Zoey - she certainly deserves it.

Unknown said...

WTG Zoey!

Kim said...

May Zoey's sparkle shine on in your heart forever! Congratulations to her and to you, the kind educator who helped her along the way. :o)

Jill said...

That's a sweet story, Carol. Thanks for sharing :)

Jo said...

Awww, God bless Zoey. And you too for writing about her. I would imagine it is students like that who inspire educators.