Angel Teachers

Dan Coulter Headshot.jpg

By Dan Coulter

Julie, my wife, just reminded me that it’s teacher appreciation week.

That makes me think of the teachers who Julie calls “angels.” They’re especially impressive because they’re earthbound and doing a really tough job. These are the teachers who find a way to give students with challenges the help they need. These angels look past difficult behaviors to see their causes and try and address them. My son Drew had a number of angels when he was in school.

Yes, it’s an era of tight budgets, growing class sizes and “teaching to the test.” This puts pressure on teachers.

Recently, Julie and I spoke with an educational consultant. He described a teacher who demanded that a student with Asperger Syndrome show her proper respect. She couldn’t accept that this lack of respect existed only in her head. The student was being literal, but she heard sarcasm. She never thought to give him the benefit of the doubt or help him find social skills training.

Angels have a different mindset: Wherever a student is, that’s where you start teaching. This is essential for many students who have Asperger Syndrome. And it’s helped teacher after teacher find ways to help students use their strengths to modify challenging behaviors and contribute positively to their classes.

It’s as simple as realizing that the focus of education should be students. And as complex as adapting to a range of individual students’ needs.

You wouldn’t tell a deaf student that he can’t come to school until he can hear. You’d help him learn to communicate in other ways while he goes to school.

The abilities of a student with Asperger Syndrome can make his disabilities invisible to some teachers. Angels can sense the invisible. They make life better for their students who have Asperger Syndrome, for their classmates, and for themselves.

We’ve heard lots of stories from parents about angels who changed students’ lives. Helping them calm down when they feel overwhelmed rather than throwing gas on the fire. Helping them learn social skills they don’t pick up intuitively rather than taking offense. Making sure they understand assignments when they don’t know how to ask for help instead of waiting for them to fail.

We can encourage more angels by holding them up as examples. When you discover a great teacher, this means letting school administrators and support groups and local media know how that teacher is succeeding.

Hearing such success stories can help other teachers understand more about Asperger Syndrome. A bit of knowledge can transform a teacher who’s working off mistaken assumptions. And you may just find yourself helping to create more angels. I’m convinced there are many, many teachers out there who have the potential.

Wouldn’t it be great at the beginning of your child’s school year to look for a teacher, hope for an angel, and get both?

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Dan Coulter is the author of the DVD "Asperger Syndrome: Success in the Mainstream Classroom" and the book, "Life in the Asperger Lane." You can find more articles on his website at:

© Dan Coulter 2012 Used by Permission All Rights Reserved

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