|Guy and the Board of Trustees for Sacramento|
Guy was Nominated as Teacher of the Year for the Sacramento County Office of Education by a coworker this month. Yay, Honey!
This is such an honor. Twice he has been recognized as Teacher of the Month in recent years, but this is a very different process. The nomination is just the beginning. A reception was held the past week to recognize the nominees and to present them with a certificate recognizing this accomplishment (as his wife, I was bubbling over with pride!). But next, each of the 15 candidates must fill out a lengthy application with essay questions about their philosophies and work ethic to continue on. There is an interview process, and finally, the committee of administrators meet to select the Teacher of the Year.
Guy doesn't feel deserving. He has a laundry list of reasons why he is not "that kind of teacher".
He can't decide whether he should follow through with the process. He thinks it would be braggy. He theinks that there isn't anything to brag about.
Let me tell you about Guy as a teacher.
Guy teaches a class of 10 severely disabled students, each from about 12 to 22 years of age. Their disabilities range from severe Autism, Down's Syndrome, and Cerebral Palsy, to a combination of problems. One highly challenging student this year has both Autism and Down's Syndrome. Most of Guy's students are in wheel chairs, most need to be fed, and several have extreme health issues including seizure disorders and feeding tubes. Many have profound behavior challenges as well. They need help with EVERYTHING. And Guy does. He cares for them with immense respect for their privacy and their spirits, and makes sure everyone of the staff in his room does as well.
This alone would be a full time job, as each must be changed and fed twice while at school, requiring the use of a complicated lifting device for some of his adult sized students, but this is only the beginning of what Guy does for them. Guy's greatest desire for his students is that they fulfill their full potential. If they have a skill within their grasp, no mater how simple or how challenging, Guy will develop a program for each individual student to master that skill. Those skills include washing dishes, doing laundry and dressing themselves, but may be as simple as holding up their head or as unexpected as mastering locating and playing their favorite music on the computer.
But again, these are of the more basic skills Guy teaches. To me, the most significant things that Guy does for these young people are the intellectual ones. Guy tries to mirror the academics that their typically developing peers are experiencing. While some may not understand what is being said, I imagine that some may have great and powerful minds locked inside of bodies that refuse to cooperate with them. I have read about people who were locked in their bodies due to Cerebral Palsey, or trapped in their own minds due to Autism, until a thoughtful and intuitive person in their lives found the key to that child's communication. Were it not for computer advancement, the genius Steven Hawking may have been parked in his wheelchair in front of a TV spewing Barney or some other rubbish. We live in an age where technology makes amazing things possible, and Guy uses them to his advantage.
Guy does unit studies on science, health, art and geography. He spends a week at a time focusing on different states, teaching the state flag, capital, flower, export and other points of interest. He does units on other countries, always featuring a feast of delicious foods he makes with his students at the end of each unit. He takes the kids out on community based instruction outings and gives them the experience of ordering their own food, and paying for their own purchases. But my favorite thing he does is read. He reads the classics to his students. If their typically developing peers are reading Of Mice and Men, so is Guy, out loud, to them.
To add to all this, Guy also has to arrange and hold progress meetings for each student, coordinating the efforts of nurses, speech and vision therapists, OTs, PTs, and other support services. He has to deal with parents (sometimes, no, usually not the easiest part of the job), transportation and administration in a far more hands-on way than a regular education teacher would. He is even responsible to do home visits to check on the welfare of his students. He must know the law and rights of his students, and to defend them. He has, on more than one occasion, even had to attend the funeral of one of his students whose fragile health would no longer hold out.
If I were a young student confined to a wheelchair, unable to care for myself; to speak, to make choices on my own - if I were locked in my body and could only choose when to breathe and blink, I would want to be in Guy's class. I think that in a would where people tend to talk baby talk to students like his, or to ignore them entirely, speaking about them as if they weren't sitting right there, being if Guy's class would be a salvation.
More than once Guy has been accused of being a glorified babysitter.
That could not be further from the truth.
He is more amazing than the Teacher of the Year committee will ever know, because even if Guy does complete the process, he will never toot his own horn to say how great he really is.
And he really, really is.
I don't know when you will read this, Guy Alan. Probably weeks or months from now. But I want you to know that I love you, I believe in you, and I am so, so proud of you.