Out of all the professions, it is safe to say that a teacher can touch the heart and change the world one child at a time. Teaching is more than just a job, aside from the actual teaching itself, teachers actively take the role of being the second parent of their numerous students. They go high and beyond their professional job descriptions just to be able to help their students.
Helma Wardenaar is a special education teacher and the director of student services of the Academy for Global Citizenship in Chicago. Her story proves that teaching is truly a work of the heart; as she did everything she could in order to help one of her students not miss their most-awaited annual class hiking trip.
Every school year, Helma, together with her students, go on a two days hiking excursion to learn, experience, and explore wildlife. The two-days hiking excursion is one of the highly anticipated class activities her students are looking forward to join to. However, one of her students named Maggie may not be able to join them due to the nature of her physical condition.
Maggie, a bright student of Helma since kindergarten, has cerebral palsy, a movement disorder that makes hiking an impossible feat for her. Maggie uses a walker and a wheelchair in order to move with ease, but bringing it with her in the woods is not a plausible idea.
Fortunately for Maggie, she is blessed to have a teacher with a determined mind and heart. Helma couldn’t bear the idea of leaving Maggie, or any of her students behind. Helma approached and consulted Greg Coleman, who works at a local recreational equipment store.
“Everybody should have a chance to join on a field trip… And just because there is a physical problem there that shouldn’t matter. Helma shared in an interview.
First, Helma looked for a carrier or a sling which could hold Maggie’s weight. However, there was no carrier big nor sturdy enough to carry Maggie safely. Helma also tried to borrow a pony from a friend, unfortunately, the forest preserve said that is against their rules and regulations. Lastly, Helma thought of using a wheelbarrow, but it was not the safe enough for Maggie.
Despite the setbacks, providence seems to be on Helma and Maggie’s side. Days before the big day, the determined teacher received an email from Greg, who couldn’t let go of the idea of helping Helma help her student, about a specially designed backpack that would help her take Maggie with her entire class to camping.
Greg was not able to find a carrier nor a sling big enough for Maggie’s age and weight, however he found a backpack called, The Freeloader, a specially designed backpack for carrying taller and older children. With Maggie’s permission, Helma bought the $300 backpack.
Carrying a growing child through the woods, on uneven terrains, for at least 2 hours a day during their hike was definitely not easy. However the truly admirable teacher, Maggie’s smile was enough to make it all worth it.
“There were moments where it was pretty hard… Maggie was amazing. She sang her own song. When you have a child who is enjoying the moment and being with her peers, those were moments that I was able to push through.” Helma shared in an interview, sharing what kept her inspired all throughout their journey.
Helma’s determination and dedication truly proves that teachers are not just teachers but a hero for their students!
Watch the video below and witness how Helma, a teacher with determination, helped her student join a truly unforgettable moment in her life… making the impossible possible for her student.
Photos | Helma Wardenaar