I was allowed to present this “STATEMENT” at the second day of my arbitration proceedings. I suppose it is wise not to comment publicly until the proceedings are over. We meet again in December, 3 1/2 years after the back to work process began.

BCTFlogo@125I sit before you today to be judged. I placed myself here long ago when I initiated the back to work process in discussion with my doctor in 2006. My life, my health, my vulnerabilities have been shown to you and I welcomed it for one reason…I felt it was my obligation to return to the workplace as my ability to do so had returned.

What is required for a teacher to work? I learned from a brave, young ventilator-dependent quadriplegic hired by a progressive school district (Vancouver) that a strong will and a functional mind were the only requirements. A functional body was not required. If young Johanna Johnson

Johanna

Johanna

can do it, I had every obligation to return to my career.

As a visibly disabled person in a school, I give a message to disabled students. They can aspire. They, too, can have careers in what they perceive to be important jobs dominated by the able-bodied. But more importantly, I educate the able-bodied, because they need to know that I am not a mere curiosity. I am not what they see. I am a human being; a teacher…a more than capable teacher, who, given a few environmental adaptations, can more than function in my chosen career.

Most of the people who wrote letters back and forth, made decisions against my presence had never met me or met me only once. With all we know about brain science and the function of “the interpreter” in filling in details missing in actual interaction, I am in awe of this entire process.

There are many things to applaud in the stacks of paperwork I have studied. Some have learned about the use of green chemicals for cleaning. There have been reports from other schools and institutions on scent-free policies, the new policy for Anaphylactic Safety in Surrey School District. … But according to the BC Lung Association 3 out of 10 people are chemically sensitive and the numbers are growing. I maintain that every living organism is “chemically sensitive” given large enough doses in small enough enclosures. The reactions may just differ. Some people break out in cancer after accumulating the chemicals in body organs. I have the GOOD LUCK of being able to detect small quantities and having the need to escape quickly. There are many indicators in our environment that human beings as a species are succumbing to chemical pollution. Sperm counts in humans are at 50% of what they were a few decades ago. Knowledgeable parents would welcome a chemical free school and soon it will be the norm. This year, already, parents are grappling with the need to buy PVC free school supplies and worrying about all the previous years when they did purchase these products.

(Paragraph that originally appeared here has now been removed at the request of my employer.  It was not meant to upset anyone and was, as far as I know, only a statement of facts. I apologize if anyone found it offensive. removed January 30, 2010)

I sit before you, a human being, flawed, as are we all. My desire…to do what’s right and return to being a contributing member of society despite my disability. I am a teacher.

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Comments
  1. Courage – your name is Elaine Willis!

  2. Very nicely said Elaine. We’re all very proud of you and what you do for your community

  3. Pamela Cauble says:

    I admire you’re ability and willingness to fight for your right to teach. I wish I could do the same. But I am so weary. I can no longer sustain the concentration and enthuiasm needed to successfully teach 212 children Spanish on a daily basis. After 20 years, I need to step away. I wish I could be happier about it. I’m not sure what’s next.
    Bravo to you. You’re going to impact more than the immediate world around you.

  4. […] The busiest day of the year was January 8th with 76 views. The most popular post that day was I AM a Teacher. […]

  5. Mikki (Cowling) Chartier says:

    Elaine Willis,

    You were my 3rd and 4th grade teacher back in the 1980s at Grosvenor Road Elementary School. After all these years and wondering what’s happening today, I found your blog. You are a gifted teacher, who showed far more compassion to a very shy and anxious disabled child than our soulless system has demonstrated to you. I was stunned to find out you developed ataxia and chemical sensitivities, but from your blog and The Hindsight Years, it’s clear you haven’t let it stop you.

    It was a privilege to have had such a wonderful human being as a teacher. You valued each and every student as individuals, genuinely cared about us and what we were learning. Nearly thirty years on, I still remember how you read stories to the class and didn’t underestimate our ability to understand the themes. How you played “Clouds”–Both Sides Now–by Anne Murray. I remember learning about technology in the computer lab with the Apple ][ and when you took the class on a field trip where we learned about computer programming at a real university! You made the experience magical to a nine year old child who never forgot your kindness, passion for teaching, and your patience.

    I just wanted to say thank you.

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