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What His Teachers Taught Me

May 27, 2011

by  Sarena James

Lori Coger, Grant, Allison Coggins

Nearly two years ago, I met a voice on the phone.  She was calm; I wasn’t.  She had answers; I had layers of questions.   She assured me that things would be okay; and now I realize, she was right.

For the life of me, which is what it felt like it was taking, I could not wrap my mind around my three-year old son going off to school, by himself.  He wasn’t even speaking; in fact, he was barely making eye-contact with those who knew him best.

How could he trust complete strangers; more honestly, how could I?  The plan was that he would begin school in the summer, which would give him a good head start.

He would attend the Extended School Year (ESY) Program for three and a half hours a day. There he would learn basic social skills and grow accustomed to the school environment. “Trust me Mrs. James. Early Intervention will play a major role in his success. I know he’s your little boy, and I know it’s hard, but really, he’s going to be okay, and so are you.”  That’s what the voice said.  Her name is Lori Coger.

Lori Coger , a complete stranger at the time, is now a household name. She is a gentle soul with a heart made specifically for children with special needs, and an ear made specifically for the mothers and fathers who parent them.  She’s got nurturing hugs for each child and a firm tone when they’re pushing their limits.

For two years I’ve watched her believe in my son. I’ve watched her celebrate his accomplishments and not accept his mediocrity once he’d proven what he was capable of.

Mrs. Coger is the assistant to Allison Coggins, a lady who has amazed me from day 1. Mrs. Coggins has an innate ability to focus on each of her students as individuals, not statistics. She learns her students well, and just like a parent who has multiple children, she realizes that each one learns differently, and she takes that path. Several times during the last two years, she’s picked up on Grant’s progress, or sometimes lack of, and kept an open line of communication as to what the next step should be, always keeping his well-being in mind. She’s taken the time to know Grant, his likes and dislikes, his strengths and weaknesses, his abilities and his abilities, because she’s never focused on what he can’t do.

The only labels in their classroom are the ones found on plastic boxes; there are none on any of the students.

I could not have asked or hoped for better teachers for my son’s beginning.  Mrs. Coggins and Mrs. Coger , along with a wonderful lady named Ruth Diarra (ABA Therapist), have done much more than teach my son, they’ve taught me important life lessons.

I’m not sure where our family’s journey leads from here. But I am sure of these lessons:  I now believe in the journey, not just the destination.  I believe that every milestone is first made by the inch. I believe that people bless the lives of others when they follow their calling. And lastly, I believe that just like Mrs. Coger said, Grant’s going to be okay, and more than okay.

What do you think of your child’s teacher? What are some qualities you love in an educator?  Is there a quality that you feel more educators could use? Feel free to use our “sounding board” and comment below.   And forward this link on to an educator.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Marilyn permalink
    May 31, 2011 4:27 pm

    I had the privilege of meeting these two kind, caring, God-sent teachers and their capable assistant, Ruth, when I visited Grant at his school. Every word that Sarena wrote about them is SOOOOO true. Teachers in the special education arena have a heart of gold, and their work should be heralded and applauded. I believe it was Raphael who said: “Good teachers affect children, while excellent teachers affect their families as well.” Mrs. Coger and Mrs. Coggins rate as beyond excellent. May they be blessed abundantly for all the love that they shower on the children AND their parents.

  2. Kimberly Malone permalink
    May 28, 2011 11:53 am

    This is such an inspiring article. I don’t have any children with special needs, in fact all of my children are grown up. I do have two wonderful grandchildren.
    As I was reading this article my heart skipped beats throughout. I find myself feeling as if I was a mother or grandmother with a special needs child. I empathize with you, Sarena and all the other parents of these special children.
    There are certainly Heros out there that have not been recognized for their contributions to the health and welfare of a special needs child.
    I work in a facility for developmentally disabled adults, and I see the committment of “some healthcare workers” that is truly unbelievable.
    Now I ask myself “What can I do to help?”

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