Finding The Courage To Be Myself

There are moments in my life when, because I have cerebral palsy, I don’t like being myself. I feel inadequate, awkward, and tired. I wonder how people perceive me and if they like what they see. But, after this happened, I felt encouraged and confident to be myself. I realized it was okay to let myself be seen, even though my butt sticks out, my arms get spastic, and my feet are covered with Reebok’s because of the inserts and AFO that holds me up each day. Who I am, all of me, makes a difference. Who you are makes a difference. Don’t try to be anyone else.

This e-mail is shared with permission.

From: Aimee Libby Subject: Excellent Educator nomination

Date: October 4, 2013 at 3:56:42 PM CDT

To: morning@wcco.com

Hello, My name is Aimee Libby and I have two kids who attend St. Michael Elementary (STME) in St. Michael, MN. My oldest child (Peyton) has special needs from an injury at birth, and is in 3rd grade at STME. Peyton struggles with Expressive & Receptive Language Disorder and Global Apraxia (both neurological planning/processing disorders). We have been at STME for three years, and while we have met and interacted with countless amazing staff members there both in the regular ed and SPED classrooms, there’s one person in particular who has had a huge impact on our family – and who is making a HUGE impact on our entire community. Her name is Jenny Hill. She is the Media Specialist at STME, and she was born at 29 weeks gestation with Cerebral Palsy. The very first week our daughter, Peyton, was at STME, she came home raving about “Miss Hill”. I had no idea who she was, so I looked her up on the school staff directory online. I remember thinking, “Weird, she’s just the librarian”. When my husband and I asked Peyton why she liked Miss Hill so much, her response was, “She’s different. Like me.” Little did we know that Ms. Hill was very actively teaching so much more than simply how to check out a book.

Over the past few years, we’ve gotten to know Miss Hill and have been amazed at what a great asset she is to STME and to our community. She’s very open with the kids about her disability. In talking with her, we have been so encouraged to hear her mission as an educator – to make sure every student knows they are loved, appreciated, and respected. I once asked her how she’s able to so freely discuss her disability after having such a difficult time growing up, feeling as though she was alone and without any friends. I know for myself, it’s often difficult to talk about or explain my daughter’s disability to others, but Jenny does it with grace and ease. Her response blew me away, she said, “I have seen that sharing my story has the power to provide hope, inspiration, and encouragement to others who are struggling”. Wow.

About a year and a half ago I helped start a Special Olympics team here in St. Michael-Albertville…and Jenny has been one of our biggest fans! She invited my daughter and I to be a part of the daily “morning news” at STME during “Acceptance Week” last April to help inform the kids what Special Olympics is all about, she has helped promote fundraisers for our team, she has also been doing an amazing job encouraging kids to look beyond people’s disability (whether physical or cognitive). Through sharing her story and being transparent to both students and staff at her building, she’s trailblazing a beautiful path for all current and future students with special needs/disabilities to walk down – one that is filled with cheerleaders along the way and even friends walking ON that path with them, hand-in-hand. Jenny is promoting acceptance, but more importantly, she is working so very hard to teach each student she comes in contact with that “different” is good. Because deep down, we’re all “different” in one way or another.

We can’t say enough good things about Miss Hill! And we’d love for her to be recognized for all that she’s doing (much of which she probably doesn’t even realize) simply by being herself and being open with everyone regarding her disability. She is truly one in a million and we’re so lucky to have her at STME!

Thanks for your time and consideration!

Sincerely, Aimee Libby

Watch WCCO’s Response: http://minnesota.cbslocal.com/video/9505775-excellent-educator-jenny-hill-at-st-michael-elementary/