West Seaford Elementary special education teacher Dana Bowe reflected on what she learned serving as Delaware's 2019 State Teacher of the Year during her final speech as Delaware Teacher of the Year.
Editor's note: The following is the script of the speech delivered by 2019 Delaware Teacher of the Year Dana Bowe at the 2020 Teacher of the Year awards ceremony.
It was one year ago - the announcement right here at Dover Downs- "The 2019 Delaware State Teacher of the Year, from the Seaford School District- Dana Bowe."
It was a blurry moment.
What I do remember clearly was hearing the cheers from my family and friends, the board, my administration, my staff, and all of the families of children with special needs. Through the blur and the noise, I definitely felt wrapped in community spirit! I wasn't sure what was happening, or how it even happened, but I knew IT was something big.
Then, there were the photos and the interviews. You could see what I thought, what I felt, in every photo posted all over the internet and news. I learned pretty quickly that this honor would include speaking engagements, and at that time, I didn't believe that my voice deserved to be heard. Fortunately, I did believe that MY STUDENTS DESERVED TO BE SEEN AND THEIR VOICES BE HEARD. With guidance and support from so many wonderful people around me, I started sharing; sharing their powerful stories, using their voices, while I grew the courage to develop my message, and my voice. It was now time to raise awareness about inclusion and acceptance!
I shared Wayne's story this year.
Wayne with the most beautiful blue eyes, but when he started my class, his eyes seemed to look right through me. He was nonverbal and h
e didn't like having a speech generating IPAD device. He often threw it across the room. There were days Wayne cried and days that I cried. I had to learn how to listen- truly listen without hearing any words. I eventually learned that Wayne liked dominos, trains and anything that moved and I started incorporating his interests into my lessons. Wayne also liked my frog puppet, Moe. Moe would hop up and down and Wayne would laugh. Hearing Wayne's laughter was the best sound ever. One day, Moe, the frog puppet, asked Wayne, "Do you want a high five, fist bump, or a hug?" Just then, Wayne turned his device on and typed "h-u-g." It wasn't easy getting to know Wayne. It was really hard-- but once I learned how to listen to Wayne- I saw his greatness. Wayne could speed read, recognize over 100 sight words, and motivate us to dance and jump to hear his laughter and joy. I am not sure if I entered his world, or he entered mine. Either way- I finally heard Wayne's voice.