One of the greatest privileges I had as a teacher was having Wendy Aaby as a student. I had her when she first moved to Gilbert in second grade and then when I moved to third grade, she was in my class. Wendy was paralyzed from the waist down after she had a brain tumor and the radiation she went through severed a spinal chord.
Her mom was amazing. She was so trusting of me as a teacher. It was the first year I did my Bisbee/Tombstone trip and Marilyn (her mom) let her go with us. Our wonderful health assistant, Mary Sisung, went along to tend to her physical needs.
Wendy taught me so much as a teacher and she taught the students in my class so much about empathy and compassion. Wendy died when I was in Douglas and I asked her best friend at the time, Charissa, if I could share about how amazing she was. And she said yes. Charissa is/was one of the kindest most amazing students I ever taught I feel privileged that we have kept in contact through the years. She even helped with my campaign for GPS Governing Board.
When I came across this article, I was so touched that my mom had saved it. I am sending it to Wendy's mom.
By Linda Schwartz
Gilbert-There is no way Wendy Aaby could have felt alone.
Usually she is the only student in a wheelchair at Patterson Elementary School but last week the second grader had company on wheels.
Using one adult-sized and one child-sized wheelchair brought to the school for the week, students and teachers took turn spending several hours in the chairs.
Wendy's teacher, Sheila Rogers, came up with the idea to help Wendy feel more comfortable among her classmates and to give the other students an understanding of what it means to be confined to a wheelchair.
"It has been a positive experience for everyone involved," said Mrs. Rogers who challenged Wendy to what has become a frequent recess activity--a wheelchair race.
Principal Leona Shreve was one of those who learned from her several hours in the chair.
"I found many of the things I had tried to get "Wendy to do were not that easy," she said. "I felt very restrained because I wanted to be able to do things quickly and I couldn't. It has been an eye opener for the rest of us."
Several of Wendy's classmates said they enjoyed the wheelchair experience, although they complained of tired arms.
Maneuvering the chair over bumps and steering around corners takes considerable practice and strength.
Wendy's mother, Marilyn Aaby, said the child has been paralyzed for two years. The spinal injury was the result of chemotherapy given Wendy, now 9 years old, following surgery for a malignant brain tumor.
Mrs. Aaby said Wendy has come home this week excited about seeing her classmates on wheels.
"It has taken a long time to get used to the fact that she will never walk again," said Mrs. Aaby.
What a blessing it was for me to have Wendy as a student for two years. I was so sad when she died at a young age. And I will always be grateful for the lessons I learned from Wendy and from the fact that her mom trusted me implicitly with her education in all areas. I was truly blessed to have Wendy as a student and Marilyn as a parent. I learned more from her than she learned from me. And I believe that the other students did, too.
It was such a privilege for met to be Wendy's teacher for two years!!