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December 26, 2013
Sometimes it takes spending a day with someone to truly appreciate their gifts.

Case in point: Ted took off work one day recently to accompany our son, Andrew, and the Parcell sMiddle School students in the special education classrooms on a field trip to the Plymouth Orchards and cider mill.

One of the first people to greet him was classroom assistant Angie Holtz. Anticipating Ted’s arrival, she had brought a past X-tra Special Advice column we had written about her many years ago when she was one of Andrew’s classroom assistants at Barnes Early Childhood Center. The column meant so much to her. You could see it in her eyes. The way she gently held the paper like it was heirloom jewelry. Holz was still deeply touched by the column we wrote about her work with Andrew. She is still as sweet, thoughtful and kind as we remember.

On the bus ride to the cider mill, Ted discovered “Super Mom.” Dawn Levick traded a successful business career years ago to teach children with special needs as a classroom assistant. She spoke glowingly of closely monitoring her own children’s social lives as a “super” helicopter mom and how much she enjoys working with Andrew. Always positive, she was a “super” mother on the trip. Other teachers came to her and her suitcase-sized handbag for necessities, such as wipes, tissues and Altoids. Ted would not have been surprised if she had pulled a full-size vacuum cleaner out of her bag if one was needed. Levick even carried all of the lunches, smiling and helping along the way.

Throughout the trip, Ted learned why Erin Amos is such a trip. We already knew Andrew’s teacher was positive, creative, slightly mischievous, thoughtful, loving and kind. She was the reason we selected Parcells for Andrew and the teacher we believed would be a perfect fit for him and his one speed. Amos had us at hello. And the trip reinforced we were right. She is perfect in every way for Andrew and his classmates. Patience is a requirement for any teacher. Teaching children with special needs requires far more patience and a special love only special teachers can deliver. Amos showed her love and patience on the trip, encouraging her students to learn more, nudging them gently out of their comfort zones and inspiring the other teachers and classroom assistants.

On the return bus trip, Amos revealed her plans to be “Super Woman” for Halloween this fall. We cannot think of a more fitting costume.

It is our hope leaders of the Grosse Pointe Public School System recognize what we already know as parents: We have “super” teachers with special gifts in our district. Spend a day with them to discover it for yourselves and pledge to support them in every way you are able, which in turn, supports the education of our children.

Coutilish and Langan created this column to share experiences from their journey as parents of a child with Fragile X Syndrome. Send your questions or comments to mblangan@hotmail.com.

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