December 2009
Connecting the people of Vancouver Public Schools

Download Seeing challenges as opportunities 12-08-2009 (3 MB)

Duration: 3:12 m

Seeing challenges as opportunities

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  • Seeing challenges as opportunities

  • Recently, I met with Laura Weigandt, a teacher at Discovery Middle School who works in the Structured Communication Classroom. Here’s what she said: “I feel blessed to be working for Vancouver Public Schools. As a first year teacher, I’ve heard so many stories from my former PSU classmates about the lack of support, resources, and work conditions that they face in other places. I also feel incredibly blessed to have discovered my passion for working with students on the autism spectrum. My students all have the most beautiful minds and spirits. It is my job to help the rest of the world see that in them.”

    I was on a routine site visitation when I met Laura. Although our contexts are different in terms of roles and responsibilities, I found we have a lot in common. We are optimists—we see challenges as opportunities. On the worst days, we’re both just “firefighters” trying to manage the latest crisis. But on our best days, we’re helping others see possibilities—for our community, Vancouver Schools, our employees, and the students we serve. I’m not sure which of our jobs is the most difficult—I suspect it really depends upon the crisis! But I do know this, I have a deep respect and professional regard for those who choose to work with our special needs students. Most describe it as a “calling.”

    Not surprisingly, that is Laura’s story. She has worked for VPS since 2005 and began as a staff assistant in the Structured Communication Classroom (SCC) at Lakeshore Elementary School. She’s in her first year teaching the SCC program at Discovery Middle School since completing her graduate degree at Portland State. But her pursuit of what she describes as “the best job in the world” began in her youth. Laura has a close family member with autism. When this person was young, he was inaccurately labeled as mentally retarded, and was not given the attention and support that he needed to flourish. Later in life, other people recognized his unique needs, and refused to give up on him by providing support and holding him to high standards. Today, this relative is primarily independent, has been named Employee of the Month three times, and even holds season tickets for the University of Oregon football games! I’m sure he was celebrating the outcome of the “Civil War” with thousands of others at Autzen Stadium!

    This personal experience has shaped Laura’s core. She sees her students as children first, and as children with disabilities second. Laura shared that working with children on the autism spectrum can be incredibly difficult because no one child is like the next. But the rewards and benefits of helping each child blossom into an independently functioning adult far outweigh any of the challenges she may experience.

    I thank you, Laura, and all of you who see challenges as opportunities. I, too, feel blessed to be working for Vancouver Public Schools.

    Have a wonderful holiday season!

    Take care,

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Episode 001: Helping a new student find her way home
Episode 002: Walking together for kids
Episode 003: "Heart work" endures
Episode 004: Mentoring "pays it forward"
Episode 005: Teachers inspire a family
Episode 006: Employees brighten the work environment
Episode 007: Our own prodigal son
Episode 008: A community mourns the loss of Gordon Patterson
Episode 009: Harvesting dreams
Episode 010: Seeing challenges as opportunities
Episode 011: Attitude makes the difference
Episode 012: Putting students first
Episode 013: Coming home
Episode 014: Superheroes of Vancouver Public Schools
Episode 015: Highlighting "Bright Spots"
Episode 016: Gifts for the future
Episode 017: Equitable funding for our children
Episode 018: Working together to meet our students needs
Episode 019: Rx for student success: Instructional rounds
Episode 020: Riding the waves of music
Episode 021: Discovering one's voice; there's an app for that
Episode 022: Graduation…The key to a better life
Episode 023: Wrestling against the odds
Episode 024: One employee, one school district to watch
Episode 025: Gifted young poets inspire and excel
Episode 026: Fortitude
Episode 027: Being present
Episode 028: New year's resolutions
Episode 029: Springing into new beginnings
Episode 030: Lessons from the NSBA Education Technology Site Visit
Episode 031: Phoenix rising—and graduating—from the ashes
Episode 032: Storytelling
Episode 033: From the community come reasons to be thankful
Episode 034: The giving spirit
Episode 035: Lewis and Clark transforms with blended learning
Episode 036: New technology tools
Episode 037: Success stories draw governor, mayor
Episode 038: All I really need to know
Episode 039: As one chapter ends, another begins
Episode 040: Jumping over achievement gaps
Episode 041: Compassion strengthens district

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