Last week, a beautiful thing occurred in the classroom of a 4th grade teacher at Chino Valley School District.
It is Autism Awareness Month and every classroom on the California campus had been asked to have each student decorate a paper puzzle piece and hang it on their classroom doors.
When Ms. Lisa Moe handed out the puzzle pieces, most of her students were familiar with the idea of autism—and they were aware of the reason for decorating the puzzle pieces. What her students did not know was that autism was present within their own classroom in their fellow classmate: Rumari.
With excitement, Rumari rose his hand and said “May I please say something?” Moe nodded and said “of course”, but never could she have imagined what was to follow.
She explained in a Facebook post: “Rumari has faced challenges and barriers beyond what any of us will ever be able to fully understand. But today, he stood in front of the classroom with full confidence, enthusiasm, and courage and showed us that there is no challenge or barrier that can stop him.
“He brought to life the meaning of ‘Yes I Can’ as he explained to his fellow classmates that he was autistic. With full knowledge, he explained the differences that may come when being autistic and how the spectrum is vast. He courageously spoke about his own differences and quirks, while defining what it means to make everyone feel like a someone.”
Both teacher and students were enraptured and hanging on every word he spoke. For a long time, Moe never thought to get out her phone to capture this moment – but finally, she realized the treasure that was unfolding, and without any of the students knowing, she hit record and captured the final moments of Rumari’s talk, along with the authentic and raw reactions of the other students as they raised their hands to ask questions.
Moe’s daily classroom mottos of “Be Kind” and “Yes I Can” merged in that moment and the tears could not be stopped, as his peers expressed their admiration and love for him.
Rumari’s mother was thrilled by the video and told Moe: “Watching Rumari so courageously speak about autism and how it relates to him and others is beyond what I can properly express. It brings me great joy to watch him be so unapologetically proud to be autistic… Thank you for creating such a comforting, loving and supportive environment that my baby felt safe to express himself. You’re doing great things and giving others the courage to do the same. ”
Moe told Good News Network, “One of the biggest lessons I have learned through this is that kids are still kids. They sometimes say things they shouldn’t or do something they know isn’t right.”
“When they entered my class at the beginning of the year, many lacked confidence and struggled with a negative mindset. But in the right positive environment where I stress the importance of kindness, empathy, compassion, and self-confidence every day through our class motto of ‘Yes I Can!’, to me, it solidified my position as an educator and the impact and influence of being the ‘positive teacher’. We can make our world a feel-good, happy place.”
“If I were unable to ever teach again or if there was ever a question to my path into this role as an educator, this moment solidified my purpose.”
(Note: Ms. Moe got permission from all parents whose child spoke on camera.)
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