Can I teach if I have dyslexia?
Politics and Activism

What I Learned From My Dyslexic English Teacher

My AP English teacher in high school was dyslexic. Here's what she taught me, outside of our curriculum.

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From the very first day of Honors English III/pre-AP English Language and Composition, I loved Mrs. Newton. She was funny, intelligent, and made the class just difficult enough to satisfy my need to be challenged but not so difficult that I couldn't balance the course with an overflowing schedule of Honors and AP classes. Like most other AP courses at my school, I was scheduled to have her class for an entire year, and I was psyched.

Not long into the year, though, Mrs. Newton admitted something unexpected to my class. We were working on a warm-up paragraph, an excerpt from a well-known novel as usual, when Mrs. Newton struggled over some of the simple words in the prompt, like "from." My fellow students and I were confused - the font wasn't small, surely she could read it? But Mrs. Newton told us that she was dyslexic, and sometimes struggled over words that were similar to others, such as "from" and "form".

This struck me as strange yet intriguing. My English teacher, for an AP class, no less, was dyslexic. It was a form of oxymoron similar to a colorblind painter or a depressed comedian. Yet her dyslexia had never deterred Mrs. Newton. She had studied literature in college and had gone as far as to earn a Master's degree in some era of British literature that now slips my mind. She spent her days teaching three sections of junior year honors English to high schoolers who admired her for her humor, wit, and knowledge. She admitted that she often memorized how words looked in order to read them correctly, rather than relying on sounding out the letters.

She was and still is, one of my biggest inspirations.

Many times in my life, I have felt that I was not "cut out" for what I intended to do. I still often feel this way. As a young woman of just-slightly-above-average height and of homosexual orientation, I often wonder how I am going to elbow my way through leagues of tall, brash, straight men in the fields of science, politics, and legislation. It often feels like I have a mark stamped on my forehead saying, "Choose someone else. A man, probably." From my days in public school up to now, I have faced discrimination because of my sex and my sexual orientation, from male lab partners who took chemicals out of my hands because I "need to be more careful, sweetie," to the looks of thinly veiled disgust and disappointment from adults to whom I offhandedly mention my romantic life - involving, of course, women.

Couple those traits with my depression and anxiety, and it often feels like my career is an insurmountable mountain looming in front of me, and that I should just aim for something much lower.

Hearing Mrs. Newton's story, I realized that she had overcome circumstances somewhat similar to mine, and had fought against her dyslexia to pursue her dream of teaching English. Through her, I recognized that I, too, could break into my career field despite the odds and become someone phenomenal. Sure, I may not become president of the United States or the scientist who cures cancer; but finding a job that makes me happy and satisfies my dreams, like Mrs. Newton's teaching position, is all I need.

I also learned that you don't have to be a well-known figure to change someone's life. Mrs. Newton was a high school English teacher at a school with only around 1,000 students (207 in my graduating class). She wasn't a famous author or a well-known speaker. But she made all the difference in my life, and that is what truly matters.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.

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