Pushing Forward While Student Teaching from a Wheelchair

Posted on Dec 07, 2022

Teaching in a wheelchair can be exceedingly tricky. However, this does not mean giving up on the dream of becoming an educator, especially during teacher shortages. Teachers with disabilities face challenges and obstacles that other teachers do not.

The obstacles include physical challenges, social isolation, typecasting, and ignorance. However, Mr. Ronnie Lawson, an Elementary Special Education major, has overcome many barriers, ranging from those who doubted him to mobility challenges.

In a wheelchair since 2016, resulting from a high school injury, Mr. Lawson had demonstrated relentless determination when others doubted whether his mobile ability was sufficient for attending all classes on campus. As an outstanding student enrolled in FVSU 0100 Freshmen Orientation, Mr. Lawson was punctual and attended most classes regularly, even when the elevator was down for repairs. His initiative-taking disposition motivated him to push forward in his wheelchair, participating boldly in a class discourse on the rights of children with disabilities.

There were two significant assignments in the orientation course. One was to visit the Head Start program in Marshallville, Georgia, and the other was to submit a reflective commentary. During the first assignment, the wheelchair lift was a challenge; however, the university provided an alternative method of transportation.

Upon arrival, a clear pathway to the wheelchair ramp was impassable. Mr. Lawson graciously requested removal so he could enter the building. These obstacles raised his classmates’ awareness of barriers.

After successfully making it to the classroom, three and four-year-old children magnetically gathered around Mr. Lawson’s wheelchair to listen to him read and share stories. The fact that he was in a wheelchair went unnoticed as he captivated his young audience. This pre-education major displayed an extraordinary way of advocating for himself and showed promise to become an outstanding teacher!

The second assignment was to observe the classroom setting and submit a reflective commentary. While scanning the room, Mr. Lawson noticed a poster on the bulletin board that displayed children in a wheelchair. He was impressed with the teacher’s efforts to demonstrate inclusiveness for all children. Hence, his comments reflected the importance of this skill set when providing an emotionally and physically safe environment for today’s diverse classrooms.

Mr. Lawson enrolled in the introductory block of courses following the orientation course. His mentor, Rebecca C. McMullen, Ph.D., is proud to say that he maintained class attendance regularly despite mobility challenges.

He met program entry milestones by maintaining the required GPA and passing the Program Admissions Assessment, background check, and Ethics Exam. Meeting all requirements, he entered the Educator Preparation Program, majoring in Elementary Special Education, where he completed an internship at Hunt Elementary School in an inclusive setting.

Not only did he complete it, but he went the extra mile to work with those with learning and physical challenges. With much determination, this young educator has overcome mobility barriers by advocating for himself and raising awareness among his students, peers, parents, and the entire school community.

He is prepared to become one of Georgia’s outstanding teachers as he pushes forward to meet the challenges of teacher shortages.

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