9: Power of the Pen

9: Power of the Pen

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Teacher Tales

Power of the Pen

It doesn’t matter. You can still fly,
there’s other ways to get around it to get to your dream.

~Kathy Ronci

In the late 1990s, a family visited the public elementary school where I taught deaf students. They said they would be moving to the district and planned to enroll their deaf daughter as a first grader. They were upset that their child’s kindergarten teacher cautioned them not to have high hopes for her academically. Based upon assessment results, the teacher painted a bleak picture for their little girl’s future. Standing behind them was Katherine, a beautiful five-year-old with long shiny brown hair and dark flashing eyes. The whole time her parents were there she didn’t make a sound or use sign language, even when her parents prompted her.

After a few weeks with Katherine, I discovered I was dealing with a very bright, very strong-willed child. Although I was able to engage her in a variety of learning activities, writing was a constant struggle. I tried all kinds of trickery to interest her in writing. Every time the pencils came out, she would shut down and refuse to participate.

One day Katherine got off her bus and stood in front of the school wailing. The staff members present did not know enough sign language to ask her why she was crying. Finally they whisked her into the office where they handed her a pen and notepad. Katherine wrote: “PAC BAK.” Immediately the office staff realized she left her backpack on the bus. They summoned the bus back to school and soon Katherine was reunited with her backpack.

That day Katherine discovered the power of the pen. From then on she had a new appreciation for writing. She is a young woman now and has become an excellent writer, public speaker and student leader. During her senior year in high school Kathy became the Douglas County Rodeo Queen and the following year she enrolled at the University of Northern Colorado determined to become a teacher. In the summer of 2008 I traveled to the National Association of the Deaf Conference in New Orleans and watched her perform competitively as Miss Deaf Colorado. Kathy keeps in touch and I especially treasure her e-mails with term papers attached. This young lady wields a very powerful pen!

P.S. Although she allows me to share this story, she rolls those big brown eyes every time I tell it.

~Susan Elliott
2009 Colorado State Teacher of the Year
2009 National Teacher of the Year Finalist
English, Social Studies teacher, grades 9-12

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