After having taught for fifteen years in middle and high school before stepping out of the classroom, I met, and still remember, many incredible kids. I remember the funny ones, the mischievous ones, the creative ones, and even the one that bit me (yes, in high school!). My students were the true definition of incredible, and this post could end up being incredibly lengthy if I were to discuss them all.
But there was one student who stands out in my heart beyond the rest. She was incredible from the moment I met her. She was a young women, who had every obstacle in front of her, yet nothing held her back. And despite her living to high school being against the odds, she persevered to achieve all of her goals and to serve as an inspiration to the rest of us who had the privilege to meet her.
Brittnee first came into my classroom as a sophomore. She wheeled in with her specialized chair and a big smile on her face. Despite many others begging for short-cuts and modifications, she requested none, and actually insisted on taking her own notes, completing her own assignments, and working at a level above and beyond the rest in my Honors level class. And her attitude was simply amazing. She did what no one else expected, and she laughed her way through every situation, never doubting herself for one moment.
I had Brittnee for 3 years in my classes, including for Yearbook her senior year. She held her own in every task, including taking photos at the game with the camera propped into her arms. And at graduation, I stood as she crossed the stage cheering with tears running down my cheeks, sharing the celebration with her, knowing she was reaching years that her doctors never anticipated.
After graduation, she and I stayed in touch. I'll never forget the day I was called out of my classroom to the office for an "emergency" only to find Brittnee waiting out front to show me her new specially equipped car. Her excitement was catchy, and I found myself giggling like a 16 year old as I checked it out! And then she graduated from college, another milestone few had expected for her.
Sadly, Brittnee did not get to experience much of her adulthood. That was an incredible loss for all of us who knew and loved her. Yet, as I write, with tears again running down my cheeks, I can smile because I know it's what she would want, and even demand from me, just as she had demanded so much from herself.
As I often face those who want to do so little with their lives, I think of Brittnee. She always did more, never complaining, knowing she would live so much less of a lifetime than the rest of us. She was the definition of incredible. She was our inspiration. And as I think of her, I will always remember her spirit and her determination. And based on her life and her living, there are no excuses. Live life to the fullest, never stopping to ask why or reaching for less than you can handle. If she could do it, so can we!
Miss you, Brittnee, and that smile! Know that you continue to inspire those of us who knew you.
Visit the other blogs in the Secondary Smorgasbord to hear about more incredible kids! It's funny how we think the teaching role is to inspire our kids, yet sometimes, they are the ones that inspire us!