REFLECTIONS ON AN AUTHOR'S HERO: HELEN KELLER
When I was ten years old, my mother and I went to the Norwest Movie Theater in Detroit. It was difficult for the two of us to spend time alone together, as she had four other children, my younger brothers, and nearly impossible for us to steal time away. Mom had no idea how she changed my life that day, but seeing The Miracle Worker inspired me, at that tender age, to choose my life’s work, and become a special education teacher, majoring in visually impaired eight years later when I attending Eastern Michigan University. I began my teaching career with children who struggled with the same conditions as my hero, Helen Keller who was struck with deafness and blindness after a serious illness when she was nineteen months old.
Those first years spent in my very own classroom, which I considered my home, were full of both challenges and laughter. Teaching toddlers with such struggles kept me awake at night. How could I help them communicate, foster their independence, encourage acceptance in both their families and the world around them? How could I motivate them with the ability Helen held most dear–caring for herself, educating herself, and becoming a contributing member of society? We worked on the simplest of things, eating, toileting, dressing, threading beads, fitting pegs into holes…all those developmental activities that would prepare them for academics.
Although I didn’t realize it at the time, those little ones were not only my first children, but my first teachers. There isn’t a decent educator on the planet who doesn’t learn from their students. We are as inspired by them as they are by us. I like to think of it as the Circle of Learning. We get what we give, as in all other walks of life.
As I reflect now, after a lifetime of teaching special education (37 years) and my somewhat new writing career (9 years), I realize life has come full circle, right back to my hero.
Fifty-three years later, in writing Beyond the Lines, I’ve come back to Helen Keller, sharing her inspirational story through my own characters and hopefully inspiring others to overcome whatever obstacles they encounter in their lives.
Two important lessons we must all remember:
There is nothing too great we can’t endure.
If you’d like to learn more about Helen Keller, the first story she published at the age of twelve is available free on Amazon.