Cheryl: Empathy-service

cheryl redish

One of the most fascinating women I have ever met is my beautiful friend, Cheryl (an Empathy-service). We taught together for 5 years at the same school – me in third grade and Cheryl across the hall in special education.

Cheryl says she always wanted to teach special ed. from the time she was tiny. As a child, she played school with her dolls, and all her “children” had specific learning needs.

For instance, one day she’d have a class of hearing-impaired dolls. Another day, she’d have orthopedically- impaired or visually-impaired dolls. “I’d create worksheets in braille for my dolls, punching out the braille with a pencil. By the end of the day, my fingers would be blistered from all that
work!”

“I made little braces for my dolls’ legs, used strollers and skateboards for wheelchairs. While I didn’t grow up around anyone with special needs, I did have a wonderful friend who had cerebral palsy, and I helped her out at school.”

It’s no surprise Cheryl became a special needs teacher. She was also the coordinator for Special Olympics in our county.

One of our third-grade reading books had a story about a deaf boy, and every year when we read the story, Cheryl would come over and teach my children to sign.  We had a blast creating silly sentences with the kids!  (the pic above is an actual photo of Cheryl in my classroom – dated 1987!)

Cheryl was the teacher who wrapped her arms around every single child who came across her path. 

One six-year-old girl used to come in and crawl under her desk every day. That was her safety zone where she could be in control. Cheryl would just crawl under the desk with her and help her with lessons.

I asked Cheryl, “What stands out as one of the most fulfilling moments in your career – one of those times you just felt like ‘I know THIS is what I am created to do?’  Immediately she answered, “Oh, that was every day.”

“All my kids are my heroes. These children came in every day and stayed and gave it their all, even though most of the work was over their heads. Watching them come in one more day thrilled me. I made it a point every day to tell these children I was happy to see them and I was so happy they were in my class.”

Cheryl’s ability to connect with people and make them feel warm, welcomed and whole was unparalleled.

“I never met a person with a disability who I wasn’t comfortable with,” Cheryl confides. “I remember taking two wheelchair bound children to the beach – profoundly handicapped. Albert had an IQ of 9 and Lisa’s was even lower. My friend and I held them in our laps and let the waves come up to their legs, and they just squealed with joy. I loved being able to bring enormous smiles to their faces.”

Cheryl’s Empathy-service is showcased in her tireless efforts to help children of all ages succeed and feel like an important part of their world.

 

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