August 2022 President's Message from Dr. Danielle Kovach
100 Years from Now
Growing up, I always knew that I wanted to be a teacher. Yes, I was that little girl who would line up her dolls and stuffed animals on the bed (alphabetically, of course) and pretend to teach them. Lessons were usually a continuation of what I learned that day in school. Those lessons were from teachers who inspired me and encouraged me to work my hardest every day. I would wear my mom’s way too big high heel shoes and pretend my closet door was a chalkboard. I wanted to be like my teachers, loving and caring with a passion for enriching the lives of others. Fast forward to high school. My dreams of becoming a teacher were still at the forefront of my mind as I began the process of searching for colleges. I’ll never forget the day that my mom said to me, “You know, you would make a great special education teacher.” She so strongly believed in me that she contacted a friend and secured me a summer job as a camp counselor at my local ARC. My experience that summer was a tumultuous wave of emotions; excitement, nervousness, humility, and happiness.
While the job was not without challenges, I was hooked. One sunny Jersey day, during our last field trip, I noticed one of our campers walking around the small amusement park picking leaves off the tree. Throughout the day, every time I glanced his way, there he was, picking leaves. By the end of the day, as we were lining up to board the bus, I noticed that this young man not only spent the day picking leaves, he took those leaves and put them in every pocket and article of clothing that he could. Stuffed with leaves, he looked like he had gained 20 pounds! Our camp director quickly stopped him as he tried to board the bus. “Steve,” she said, “What did I say about saving leaves?” He glanced up at her with sad brown eyes. “You need to take them all out before you get on the bus.” Slowly, he unearthed what seemed like a forest of leaves until he was standing in a sea of green. With love in her eyes, the director told him that he could keep one leaf. He bent down and picked up two. Now, I was fully invested and had to see what would happen next as he defied the rules. He looked at the two leaves, one in his left hand, the other in his right, and gently extended one to the director, one leaf for her and one for him. At that moment, I knew what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. That experience taught me that all students have something to share. As educators, it is not just about what we bring to our students but what our students give to us. Every..single...day.
On August 10, 1922, Elizabeth Farrell and a group of people interested in education for all types of children with exceptionalities met together in New York City to organize an association for special education. On that day, The International Council for the Education of Exceptional Children was formed.
As we enter our next century, I am excited and honored to continue the work of Elizabeth. Her visionary thinking, dedication, and passion for students with exceptionalities remind me why I am a member of CEC. I think of my elementary students, college students, and even my own boys. Elizabeth was a trailblazer for special education, and 100 years later, her legacy is stronger than ever and embraces a quote that hangs in almost every classroom:
"A hundred years from now, it will not matter what my bank account was, the sort of house I lived in, or the kind of car I drove, but the world may be different because I was important in the life of a child." 100 hundred years from now… We are living Elizabeth's 100 years and the legacy that she left. Our world is different because of her beliefs, leadership, and love. She was important in the lives of so many children then and in 100 years to come. On August 11, 2022, we are beginning our next 100 years. I am grateful for the guidance and expertise of Dr. Dennis Cavitt (Immediate Past President), Dr. Angie Jasper (President-Elect), Dr. Yvonne Bui (Treasurer), and Chad Rummel (Executive Director). Combined with our steadfast Board of Directors and dedicated CEC staff, I cannot wait to see where the next 100 years will take us! But of course, we would not be here without the members of CEC. Our education professionals, families, and partners work tirelessly for individuals with disabilities every day. That work will still live on 100 years from now. That is our legacy and our gift to the world. As we enter our 100th year of leading special education, let's reflect on the past, look toward the future, and enjoy and appreciate every moment in the present.
Dr. Danielle Kovach 2022 CEC President