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See the ABLE, not the LABEL

Jodi Bahrijczuk, Regional ALS Special Educator, Elkridge Landing MS

As a student in Howard County public schools, Jodi experienced teachers that taught her to embody the mindset of reaching her full potential no matter what challenges she may face.

Being a graduate from HCPSS (Howard HS 2013), I know what expectations are held. Reach for the moon so just in case you miss, you land on the stars.

This is my first year teaching. Yes, I graduated from HCPSS and came right back to the middle school I attended (Elkridge Landing MS 2009)!

This is because this school system showed me that even having a disability, that you can become whatever you hope and desire.

When I was born, I was diagnosed with Cystic Fibrosis (CF). This is a lung disease that affects 40,000 Americans. We look just like everyone else and you would not know that from the outside. We cough a lot, are out sick for long periods of time and it affects our day to day life in schools. Some may call that a disability.

In tenth grade, I had to be hospitalized for low lung function. CF was definitely winning. Academically, I missed midterms and had to study for them while in the hospital. Not fun. There, I learned what teachers were good with supporting my disability and which ones were not. I had an excellent social group of friends that helped and visited me often during this time period.

This leads me to tell you about a teacher that changed my outlook on life and the world of special education.

I was in the Applications and Research Lab (ARL) for Education and my senior year I had Alec Gerus, a Howard High School Special Educator, as a mentor who taught me about this mindset. He taught me how to handle tough situations and how to lead by example. I truly learned what the world of special education is like and created my mindset off of his teachings and his prerogative.

Without Alec Gerus, I would not be the special educator I am today.

He taught me not to see the “dis” in disability. That is why I chose to become a special educator.

To continue the motto that all students can reach their full potential, no matter what label is given to them. Everyone can achieve something. Whether it is becoming the next famous surgeon or finally learning the ABC’s, everyone has potential.

My story is this: See the ABLE, not the LABEL… and you will succeed!

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