John R Passarini Limited Only by Our Thoughts

Teach Your Child To Read

Teaching Your Child to Read

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If you set goals, love what you do, stay focused, and pursue your dreams with passion and perseverance, your teachers will appear.

I grew up in a bilingual home with lots of love, lots of support, and good food, but few books. My mother, Dorina, was born in Italy and only got through the third grade. My father, Adolpho, was born with cerebral palsy and contracted polio at age 6. He did not walk until he was 14 years old and because of his physical and learning challenges, he did not graduate from high school until he was 20. He never complained.

My parents taught me how to be a good person and how to love life, but my language and reading skills lagged behind. When I was forced to repeat second grade in 1955, I was disappointed and confused. Nobody ever explained why this happened and for several years I was sad and self-conscious.

In May 2001, I received my doctorate in education from Boston University. In 2003, I was named Disney's Outstanding Teacher of the Year. What happened? My strong athletic and social skills carried me through elementary school. I was embarrassed by my poor academic skills, but I had good self-esteem, lots of friends, and a positive attitude. Most important, I had clear goals and a strong desire to succeed.

My academic struggles continued in junior high school until I met Warren E. Priest. Warren was an English and social studies teacher who recognized my potential and appreciated my desire to improve my academic skills. When I met Warren I was "ready" to learn. Warren had me read aloud. He

Source: Printed with permission from John R. Passarini, Teacher, Leader.

gave me extra spelling tests. He gave me extra writing assignments, which he generously marked up with his dreaded red pen. Eventually, the sea of red dwindled to a few scattered blotches. Now, although spelling remains a challenge, I love to write.

At Newton South High School, my reading skills were still not perfect. I had to read assignments three and four times to understand them. Warren taught me study skills that helped me break down and manage large amounts of information. I continued to have Warren test me for spelling long after it was required. I cannot imagine anyone loving high school as much as I did.

With a clear mental picture of what I wanted to achieve, I was able to stay focused and reach those goals. Sometimes, I surpassed them. In addition to being elected to the National Honor Society, I was the captain of three school sports teams. At 5 feet 9 inches tall and 175 pounds, I was not an imposing sports figure. I simply played sports with the same passion, perseverance, and resolve that I had for my studies. I have a strong kinesthetic intelligence. I love physical contact. I love competition and good sportsmanship. As a result of my efforts, I became a Boston Globe first-team All-Scholastic Fullback; I won the New England wrestling championship in the 165-pound weight class; and I was invited to a tryout with the New York Yankees.

At the University of Connecticut I met Dr. Hollis Fait, who was the first recipient of the Joseph P. Kennedy Foundation Grant. He was a prolific writer with many scholarly papers and several books on the subject of adapted physical education. Most important, he was passionate about children with disabilities, especially children with mental retardation. He was a beautiful blend of academics and love. I vividly remember traveling with Dr. Fait to the Mansfield Training School, an institution for individuals with mental retardation. When

Dr. Fait entered the children's ward, he was tackled by nearly 20 excited and happy children. Even the children who were blind found their way to Dr. Fait. They laughed, they kissed him, he tickled them, he laughed, and I was in awe. I remember thinking, "What a wonderful man. I want to be just like him."

It was because of Warren that I became a teacher. My father's condition and his struggle with it made me an adapted physical educator. Dr. Fait taught me how to truly love and enjoy teaching children with disabilities. Dr. Fait reached into my soul and touched the very essence of my spirit.

My first semester at Connecticut, I achieved a 2.85 grade point score and was awarded a scholarship. One of the happiest moments of my life was telling my parents they did not have to pay for my college education. My mother cried. The goals I set, my ability to love what I do, and my ability to remain focused, along with my innate desire to be successful, and my passion and perseverance literally paid off at the University of Connecticut. I played football and wrestled for all four years at UConn. I achieved Dean's List status my junior and senior years and finished with a 2.95 quality point average. It was now time to begin my career.

In 1970, I was hired to teach physical education at the elementary and junior high school level in Waltham, Massachusetts. I was also hired to start a wrestling program at Waltham High School. My life changed forever in September 1988 when I began teaching in Wayland, Massachusetts, and met Katie Lynch. Katie was born with a connective tissue disorder. She was 28 inches tall and her arms were 7 inches long. Although Katie was capable of walking short distances with the assistance of a custom built "mini" walker, she used a motorized wheelchair for mobility. In 1990, Katie and I worked six months to prepare for her version of the Walk for Hunger. She collected pledges that sponsored her by the foot instead of by the mile. She walked 200 feet and raised $1,700.00. When Katie graduated from Wayland High School she surprised her parents by walking across the stage to receive her diploma. We worked three months to prepare for that event. In April 2000, Katie walked the first 26.2 feet of the Boston Marathon to raise $28,000.00 for Children's Hospital in Boston. Katie trained six months and sustained several injuries preparing for this event. I was one of Katie's coaches for her marathon walk, and it was Katie who nominated me for the Disney American Teaching Award. Katie survived 13 life-threatening surgeries and was in constant pain before she died in October 2002. Katie was the epitome of mental toughness. Katie taught me that we are limited only by our thoughts and that the human spirit has unlimited potential. I bring this spirit to every part of my life, including my teaching. Katie has helped me to be patient, confident, and hopeful.

If you set goals, love what you do, stay focused, and pursue your dreams with passion and perseverance, your teachers will appear.

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Helping Your Child Learn To Read

Helping Your Child Learn To Read

When parents help their children learn to read, they help open the door to a new world. As a parent, you can begin an endless learning chain: You read to your children, they develop a love of stories and poems, they want to read on their own, they practice reading, and finally they read for their own information or pleasure. They become readers, and their world is forever expanded and enriched.

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