Looking beyond disabilities: A teacher’s inclusive efforts receive recognition

Meadows with two of her students. Freshman Christian Mali and Junior Rachel Wanke both gave a thumbs up to Meadows.

Maddy Licea

Meadows with two of her students. Freshman Christian Mali and Junior Rachel Wanke both gave a “thumbs up” to Meadows.

Maddy Licea, Editor in Chief

A teacher’s job is hard. While many realize that the task of taking care of and teaching adolescents day after day is unique to other professions, the hard work and critical attention that goes into the job often goes unnoticed.

Gina Meadows, Special Education Teacher, was recently recognized for her ability to master the aforementioned tasks with a positive attitude. Meadows was named this years’ Assistive Technology on the Mississippi Conference Teacher of the Year. Meadows has worked with the school district for 15 years and continues to make a difference in the everyday lives of several individuals.

Meadows recognized that the award’s title is a bit misleading, but it means much more. “It is not a technological award, it is for the different teaching tools we use in our classroom that enable our students to all be in one classroom together,” she said.

Being in a classroom surrounded by one’s peers is something students may take for granted, but is a unique learning aspect to PVHS’ special education department. Letting all of their students participate together increases communication skills and enables a more traditional classroom setting. 

Some may hold the misconception that the bulk of the learning occurring in the special education department focuses efforts towards hands on skills like laundry and cooking, but Meadows wants people to know that they do so much more. “They also have standardized testing called the Iowa Alternative Testing, the students have a rigorous academic curriculum, it is just broken down so students can learn at their own pace,” she said.

Meadows originally went into her career path because she “wanted to make a difference.” She has created this positive change in the lives of many students, whether or not they have a disability. Student Aabha Joshi, who spends time in Meadows classroom during her fifth period, said, “She does a great job of lifting the mood and getting people excited,” said Joshi. “She’s really great at working with all types of people.” 

Joshi is not alone in finding comfort in Meadows classroom setting, many students feel it is a place of joy rather than stress. Meadows expressed her joy surrounding this, “I love seeing school kids without disabilities coming to the classroom without being asked too,” she said. “ They just enjoy spending time with the kids.” 

While the support of the school has helped Meadows, she expressed the most rewarding part of her career being the kids she works with. “The more I do the more I want to; they are kids who deserve every opportunity,” she said. “I have a lot of respect for them, and you want them to rise to the occasion.” 

Students with disabilities are a vital part of the PV community, and Meadows continues to empower, inspire, and educate all, regardless of their differences. The work she has done is particularly special due to her ability to do more than focus on the presented image of students. She has taken the time to reach out and let her students blossom. 

PV thanks Meadows for all she does to benefit the community and the difference she makes to many individuals, with or without disabilities.