Our first recipient tonight is Pam Rightsel, Jon’s 2nd Grade teacher at Northpoint Elementary School and his first teacher after his diagnosis of autism. She came to the end of the year FIRST GRADE IEP meeting, as a representative of the 2nd grade. She took pages of notes on a legal size notepad. At the conclusion of the meeting she promised to pass the information to his 2nd Grade teacher. We were overjoyed when the class list was posted and our backdoor neighbor Ms. Rightsel was going to be our son’s teacher. On the first day of school she told us she had researched over the summer different reading strategies and promised that she would do her very best to teach Jon to read.

We were anxious because the prognosis from his pediatric neurologist was that he would never read or write. Jon began using difference colors of transparencies as overlays on the pages of his books. Red, blue, yellow and finally GREEN proved to be the winner. Green made Jon see the words as if they were bolded. This was back in 2000, now it is common practice. She made wonderful suggestions like let’s keep a pair of glasses at school so Jon would always have them and she even had a special place on her desk for them.

But what Jon loved the most was a penlight purchased by Pam that he used to individually tap each word as he read it out loud. Jon felt important, special for the first time instead of different. That year Northpoint was doing a school wide MOCK ELECTION and at an evening presentation put on by the second graders, Jon was Chosen to be GEORGE W BUSH! He was beaming ear to ear that night. It was a real major role, and he would cherish the memory of it all his life.

It was a real important year for Jon because by Christmas break he was reading, preschool books but he was reading. Thank you Miss Pam Rightsel for the gift you gave to our son, Jonathon ……the ability to read. You are a true HERO!

I have many fond memories of Jonathon (I knew him as Jonathon and not Jon in second grade!), but I will share just two! One was pulling my chair up to his desk at school and working with him to read. This involved not only helping him learn strategies to read, but convincing him he could be a reader!!! He worked so hard with me as we sat side by side and after we got through a story he would have a big smile on his face!!! My other precious memory is the teacher plaque he gave me the Christmas of 2000! It still hangs on the wall in my kitchen to this day and on the back he has signed his name in his own second grade handwriting!! He truly was a joy to work with and I was blessed to be his teacher!

Smile, Pam