Photos courtesy of Frisco Independent School District
A few weeks ago, my daughter started Kindergarten. To say I had first day jitters would be an understatement. Although she was excited, and logically, I knew she was ready, I couldn’t shake the feeling that my child, my entire world, would be lost in the shuffle of a big school.
Or worse yet, that she wouldn’t be accepted for all of her beautiful colors.
Every parent is probably a mixed bag of emotion surrounding this milestone, but for me, it was intensified by the fact that my daughter also has autism. Every day, as I send her off into this beautiful but sometimes brutal world, I pray that her incredible spirit stays intact. That her joy doesn’t dissipate because of her differences. That people see the whole child, not just the missing piece.
I sat in bed stewing for weeks. Obsessing, rather. Was she ready? Was I?
And then I stumbled upon Misty Lewin’s Frisco ISD Elementary Teacher of the Year acceptance speech.
I listened in awe as Lewin, a Gifted and Talented teacher at Pink Elementary, stood in front of 8,000 of her fellow educators and delivered the most powerful and poignant message imaginable.
She was talking to them, but she was speaking directly to me too.
Lewin is not only a brilliant teacher and leader, but she’s also a mother to four boys, three of whom have autism. She used a story about each of her son’s triumphs and challenges to illustrate four points that all teachers should do this upcoming school year:
Find your people, love deep, laugh hard, and be fearless.
I felt a wave of comradery—and tears, lots and lots of tears—wash over me as I listened to Lewin talk about the peaks and pitfalls of raising children with special needs, and how other Frisco ISD educators saved her oldest son who was struggling to find his people.
I laughed hard as she described her middle son’s quirks and inability to pick up on the punchline of jokes, and I felt the deep love of a mother who is struggling to find the balance between giving her child autonomy and keeping him nestled tight forever.
And then, the heavy sobs started when Lewin recounted the story of her youngest, most fearless child who got lost at a busy neighborhood concert. For any parent, losing a child is unthinkable, but for those who know autism well, it is the worst. As Lewin stated, “he wouldn’t know to return.”
For two long hours, police officers, firefighters, infrared drones, neighbors, and strangers searched for a little boy in red glasses. And by no coincidence, when he was found at a busy intersection on Highway 380, it was by none other than a mother coming home from Target.
They say it takes a village to raise a child, but I believe it takes a village to save one too. Another mother saved her son, but I can guarantee that was just reciprocating what Misty Lewin has done for many children throughout the years.
Lewin gave me the greatest gift in her speech: she removed the mask of a teacher and became a mother. She transformed from someone unknown to someone so familiar and safe. With her words, she opened her arms for my child—for every child—to run into.
I was so overwhelmed thinking that no one would appreciate my daughter’s differences, and there was a woman, standing behind a podium, illustrating exactly why we live in the best school district in the world.
There wasn’t one word in Misty Lewin’s speech about standardized testing, or school rules, or making the team. It was all about how educators can better love, serve, and understand the children that are in their care.
As Lewin encourages, “Love every child as if they were your own because every child in your room is someone else’s entire world.”
Misty Lewin is now the face of Frisco ISD for me. Through her story, through her willingness to be vulnerable and real, I was able to connect to a teacher—to a woman and mother—I’ve never even met. She saved me from my worry and finally reassured me that my daughter will be okay.
There’s no reason at all to fear our children walking the halls.
Because they’re lined with angels like Misty Lewin.