I have been acquainted with Laura for many of the ten years that I have been coming to Romania. She is currently a first grade teacher in one of the elementary schools near Motivation Romania although she has taught different grade levels over time.
This is where a little information needs to be shared about the school where Laura is an employee. The school has an enrollment of 700+ students in grades one through eight. There are generally 25 to 30 students per class spread through three levels of an inaccessible school building. As in many elementary schools, the days are split into two sessions, with students attending a half day. Teachers work during one session or a combination of them in the course of a week. Romanian teachers, along with many other public employees, experienced a 25% pay cut last year as an austerity measure by the government. At this time school attendance is compulsory for children ages 7 through 17 (10th grade). There are groups of children who are not encouraged to attend school, and in fact are often denied entrance to a school. One group consists of children with disabilities, intellectual and/or physical.
Through the years, Rich and I have been told stories by parents of children with disabilities that if they were successful in enrolling their children it was because they had shopped around until they found a teacher in a school who would consider taking the child. We know several adults who had physical disabilities as children —- same thing —- they had a parents who were very strong advocates. These adults describe their parents, especially mothers, as having begged or bribed teachers and being stubborn, angry, or staying at the teacher’s door.
This is where the story of Laura picks up again. She has welcomed children who have disabilities into her class after having a parent approach her. Last year she had a student with an intellectual disability and a student with a physical disability who was half-carried by Laura in the school. How did she do this without the educational evaluations, PPT’s, IEP’s, and all the specialists that we are accustomed to in the States? Laura says she made a point of developing an ongoing working relationship with the parents that had lots of communication and assistance back and forth. She immediately included the students into the class and then facilitated class discussions about respect, a gentle and helpful approach to each other, and the benefits of diversity of all kinds. Of course she would like to have resources available to her, but for the time being she’s making a big difference in the lives of children and their families with her big heart, love of teaching and desire to do what she feels is right. Isn’t that what all students want? Laura is not always viewed favorably by some of her colleagues because she goes beyond what is expected of her.
Last month, a Motivation staff person asked to have Laura interviewed to share her thoughts on the radio, as one of the media spots promoting a large event in Bucharest later this month which focuses on education and inclusion in Romania. She deserves at least that much recognition! Thank you Laura!