As I reflect on one of the brightest spots of 2022, I can't help but be grateful for my best friend Analyn Stewart. We met at Shearer Charter School 25 years ago during the 1997-1998 school year. We were new teachers with a synchronous mission of supporting all students, especially those that were not understood or hurting. She served her mission through special education and I served mine through general education. Our paths united as we shared students and collaborated on ways that we could reach and teach them all.
In 2001, we both married our life partners. We wanted to have families, but weren't sure how we could do this with the demands of our work as educators. How could we raise resilient and healthy children when our classrooms required so much focus and care? We began the journey of learning how we would juggle the added demands by adopting our dogs, Mable and Drake. Mable Cope and Drake Stewart had playdates. Mable was passive, loving and aloof. Drake was intense, focused, and busy. Analyn and I noticed that the Mable and Drake were like many of the students in our classrooms. Each had a profile of strengths and challenges that made them look brilliant in one context and challenged in another.
In 2004, our own children arrived. We couldn't help but notice that we had been given children with personalities like Mable and Drake, but that the personalities had been reversed. Both loved to learn and enjoyed imaginative play. There was no sign of learning differences as newborns, but each had a profile of strengths and challenges that ended up needing support to move forward within the classroom. A 504 plan was needed for Analyn's daughter and a IEP was needed for my son. As educators we knew how hard it was to differentiate for all students and the reality of what kind of support could be provided in the classroom. Through the years, I leaned on Analyn to understand special education law and we collaborated on developing 504 plan accommodations. Becoming parents to children with special needs gave us empathy for the parents in all of our classrooms and the parents who sat across from us at 504 plan and IEP meetings. It also helped us to understand the importance of all team members and their unique perspectives in developing a plan to help children move forward within the classroom.
Today is December 31, 2022. Together We Reached Education Empowerment as our friendship, roots connected and children grew. Thank you Analyn Stewart for being my brightest spot of 2022!