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Disabled Educators Making the News: Jamey Bryce Named Teacher of the Year

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As the academic year winds down, announcements of the coveted Teacher of the Year award are being shared across the nation.  It was brought to my attention that a second grade teacher from Sioux City, Iowa received this recognition, and his story was one that I had to share on the blog.

Story

Jamey Bryce – Leeds Elementary School’s Teacher of the Year

Mr. Jamey Bryce is a second grade teacher at Leeds Elementary School, and his ardent commitment to his students won him the prestigious nomination for Teacher of Year by his colleagues.  In this video, we see Mr. Bryce’s surprised reaction to hearing his name called during the assembly for the honor.  Mr. Bryce humbly accepted the distinction, and his comments demonstrated why his dedication as an educator is respected:

“I just come in and I do my job.  But it’s an extreme honor, so thank you.  And I know we have wonderful teachers here in the Sioux City District and I’m honored to be one.”

Excerpt from Leeds Teacher Honored With Surprise “Teacher of the Year”

Why Mr. Bryce’s Nomination is Important to Spotlight

Mr. Bryce’s presence, and now awarded for his teaching excellence, within Leeds Elementary is imperative for a number of reasons:

  • The disabled experience becomes “normalized” at an early age for children, especially able-bodied students.  Students who interact with disabled persons are less likely to view them as being “different” from themselves (which has the potential of decreasing the occurrence of bullying in our schools).  Acceptance and open-mindedness are able to transpire within the school environment.
  • Disabled students, regardless of ability, have a role model they can relate to and seek guidance from as they navigate an able-bodied society that tends to exclude than include them.  From seeing and interacting with a fellow disabled person early on, they have a point of reference as to what they can do and achieve as they get older.  They see firsthand that disabled people can be teachers (and work in other professions), and if that is what they desire to become, they can use that disabled person as an example of what they can accomplish for themselves.  They are more likely to understand that their disability does not have to define their life; they possess the power to redefine what disability is and what it means to them.
  • Disabled professionals have the ability to educate students and colleagues about the disabled experience by debunking myths and inaccuracies concerning our lives and what we can and cannot do.  We can do this by simply being ourselves and living our lives; there is no “inspirational” formula to it.

The aforementioned points alone signifies how critical it is for disabled educators to be hired within our schools.  Their abilities to not only educate, but reshape misconceptions about the disabled experience, are undeniable, and will have long-lasting effects on those they connect with long after school ends for the year.  Plus, with 13 percent (or 6.4 million) of disabled students composing our total education population, we cannot overlook the importance of them having disabled educators who could act as mentors.  I can only imagine how my acceptance of being disabled would have been positively impacted if I had a disabled teacher growing up.  Teachers matter, and the visibility of disabled teachers for our disabled students matter beyond a doubt.

Final Thoughts

I would love to see more disabled educators honored in the manner in which Mr. Bryce was earlier this month.  Recognizing our exceptional teachers is an important duty because their work does not stop when class is over; they work tirelessly year around for our students.  We need more Mr. Bryces in our schools who make a difference, and they need to be honored for leaving phenomenal impressions on the lives of the students they teach.

To Mr. Bryce, and the remarkable disabled educators out there… thank you.

(Featured headlining image:  Courtesy of SiouxLand Matters/ABC9 News.)

About Vilissa Thompson, LMSW

Vilissa is the Founder & CEO of Ramp Your Voice!, an organization she created to establish herself as a Disability Rights Consultant & Advocate. Ramp Your Voice! is a prime example of how macro-minded Vilissa truly is, and her determination to leave a giant "tire track mark" on the world.

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