Megan Allen, a National Board-certified teacher, was the 2010 Florida Teacher of the Year and a finalist for 2010 National Teacher of the Year. She has taught for seven years, all at Title 1 schools, and now serves as the educator-in-residence at the University of Central Florida. Megan is a member of the National Teacher of the Year Network and the New Millennium Initiative in Hillsborough County, Florida.
A midnight blue Honda Accord. That is one reason why I love teaching. And a picture of that special car is taped above my desk as I write now. Let me explain why that four-door vehicle has such a special place in my heart.
A few years ago, I had a fourth-grade student with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Ty had been in foster care all summer long. When he walked into our class, his life was in a higher state of disarray than his little soul could handle. And he let us know it.
We struggled through tantrums, screaming, and punching as Ty integrated into our classroom family. But alongside these angry times, there were beautiful moments of calming connection.
It’s hard to understand how children with ASD feel and think. And it’s difficult to know if you are getting through to them — to know whether they understand that you care about them and would do anything for them. Despite our ups and downs, I kept trying. And trying.
One Tuesday morning (after a particularly rocky Monday), I entered my classroom and noticed something out of the corner of my eyes, taped above my desk. As I walked over, I saw a print-out of a midnight blue Honda Accord.
The next week or so, more and more Accords kept popping up and appearing on my desk. Who was posting these, and why?
Fast forward a few days to conference night. I was sitting beside Ty’s Mom while he and his two sisters spun like tornadoes around our classroom. We had just begun talking when her eyes landed on the cars posted above my desk.
“Megan, did Ty give those to you?” she asked, a smile spreading across her face. After I confessed my ongoing confusion, she began to tear up and answered my lingering question.
“Ty loves cars. He picks out what he feels is the perfect car for each special person in his life. Those are love notes from Ty… that’s how he expresses his form of love.”
As teachers, we may never know the effects of many of our efforts. Instead we hold onto the hope that there will be impact—even if it isn’t immediately obvious. And we try to be aware of the amazing little moments that give us a sense of what we bring to our students’ lives.
The car that hangs above my desk is one of my most prized possessions. It is my reminder of why I love teaching … why I do what I do.