Sunday, June 14, 2009

Congratulations Colleen!

Colleen Kelley* was one of my first students at the agency I currently work at, and will be leaving in about a week. This past Friday Colleen graduated from Perkins School for the Blind. Her family and friends gathered yesterday to celebrate her success.

Colleen came to my class a 13 year old with a spirit that filled the room, but ready to meet some challenges facing her. She was not yet reading or writing, could count but not problem solve in math and had not yet learned many life skills. Luckily, Colleen is by far one of the hardest working students I have ever had and would succeed at these things and more.

Colleen spent grades 8-12 with me and by the time she moved on to Perkins was reading and writing on a late second grade level, could accomplish most basic math problems including time and money, could navigate her power chair independently in the community, had accomplished the most important of life skills and had the beginnings of accomplishing communication competency using her ChatPC.

At Perkins Colleen excelled at Horticulture and enjoyed OT. She was a cheerleader, loved music and dances and just hanging with her girlfriends in her cottage. She is hoping to keep working with plants and flowers in the future.

Colleen has been my teacher as much as I was hers. I feel blessed that Colleen has remained a part of my life after she moved on from my class. Colleen taught me so much, including:
  • nothing is more important than positive expectations, especially when matched with a positive attitude - keep that bar raised high!
  • a good laugh makes it easier to learn anything (especially if you are laughing at people or things falling over)
  • slow and steady does, indeed, win the race
  • it is never too late to learn new skills, even if everyone else says you can't
  • unless you try, and try again, you never know what you can accomplish
Congratulations Colleen, and thank you!

*Colleen's name and photographs are used with both her permission and that of her guardian. The top photo is Colleen at age 21 at her graduation party, the bottom photo is Colleen at age 13 in her first year in my class.


  1. Congrats to Colleen! I always forgot how much the students I work with can teach me while I am teaching them... it's truly amazing.

    I live near Perkins, and have only ever heard wonderful things about it.

  2. Thank you for sharing this inspiring story and congrats to Colleen! I completely agree with your comment that "nothing is more important than positive expectations, especially when matched with a positive attitude - keep that bar raised high!" I think it applies to all students regardless of the level or score we attach to them. If the bar is set high and they know the teacher is sincerely acting as their personal cheerleader, it's amazing what all students can achieve. Thanks again for sharing!

  3. What an amazing story! It reminds me to keep in mind that teachers can learn so much from their students. I like your "a good laugh makes it easier to learn anything" comment. Teaching can be so stressful, but we need to remember to lighten up sometimes and have fun with the learning process. Thank you for sharing your story!


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