Dear General Education Teacher,
My name is Will Fried and I am 22 years old, from Bethesda, Maryland and on the autism spectrum. I am a past K-12 Special Education student who turned out to be very successful as a college student at Salisbury University. I would not have been able to succeed in high school and go off to college if I did not have the support of my high school science teacher for three years, Ms. Gingrich in General Education. Before I had her, I struggled in science classes all throughout middle school and into my first semester of high school. In my second semester of high school things changed once I had Ms. Gingrich for biology because she appreciated my enthusiasm in her class. She was the first science teacher I had who saw light in the tunnel for me.
The special thing she did was she allowed me to come into her classroom for lunch everyday because when I got to high school, I got lost in the crowd. I really appreciated her doing that for me and during lunch she would go over concepts I struggled with in class each day. On the first quiz in her class I failed, but after that quiz I understood the way that she taught biology which helped me excel. I passed the state required Biology High School Assessment (HSA) because she retaught me concepts that I did not understand initially. She told me science is just adding steps to problems like you do with a recipe.
Before taking Biology with her, I never made a basketball team which I tried out for. It was that spring during her class that I made my first ever basketball team I tried out for. Once I made that team, I was just so excited, and things changed in my life. I never wanted to give up, even after players doubted me and talked smack to me.
This teacher as well told me that I was destined to do great things and with her support, I got into my dream college at Salisbury University. I wanted to go there at the time because of their amazing Early Childhood Education Program and other teachers at my high school told me you do not have a strong chance of getting in. Ms. Gingrich treated me like my second mother and told me do not listen to them and have confidence because she saw me grow over my four years in high school. This teacher was the reason I wanted to help others succeed because life looks better when you can help others.
With this teacher’s support, I got into my dream school at Salisbury University where I graduated with being on the autism spectrum with a 3.84 GPA Magna Cum Laude. Success at Salisbury University happened with being a President of two organizations at the same time, interning for the Salisbury Mayors Office, officiated intramural sports and giving back to the game of basketball as a youth basketball coach. As well as being named a Fulbright Alternate, President’s Diversity Award, first mayor’s office intern to receive the mayors coin of honor and receiving a award for civil rights and community advocacy work. I wanted to be involved so I could make the difference and touch many lives.
I hope in your role as a general education teacher you can go above and beyond for your students with disabilities. As a teacher, you can open many doors for your students to succeed where you go.
Enjoy your journey in making a difference,
P.S. “Every child deserves a champion – an adult who will never give up on them, who understands the power of connection and insists that they become the best that they can possibly be.” ~ Rita Pierson
Will Fried is a a graduate of Salisbury University. He starts as a graduate student in the Higher Education and Student Affairs Master’s Program at Fort Hays University this Autumn. Will is a former TASH intern.