Lindsay Poremba: Sister and Teacher This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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The other day I came home to find my mom sifting through an old box of projects. One in particular caught my attention. The poster board was faded yellow and the construction paper was peeling. It contained a paragraph about what I thought a hero was. This is a very deep question to ask a third grader. All these years later, I was impressed by my answer: “Mom is my hero. She always gives me second chances. I can always count on her. My mom loves me no matter what. It is very brave to love someone for forever.”

I am sure everyone at some point has done a project dedicated to their hero. Other “hero projects” were scattered about my kitchen table, but one about my sister Lindsay led me to realize that she is my hero today. An assignment from first grade mentioned my sister's “coolness” and how much “fun” she is. This is still true, but now that I'm 16, I see my sister for who she truly is.

Lindsay began teaching at the Phoenix Center in Nutley, New Jersey, four years ago. This institution is a lighthouse of hope, love, and inspiration, and its beacon is seen through their prestigious staff. The Center buses in some of the most severely disabled students from over 50 school districts and teaches these children whom everyone else has given up on.

Recently, I had the chance to visit my sister at work. It didn't take me long to realize that every day can be like a war zone in her classroom. Each day means a new bite mark or bruise that contains a story. My sister is the head teacher of a classroom and oversees her students, who all have an aide working individually with them. She not only conducts lessons, but helps aides, restrains children when necessary, communicates with parents, keeps the room clean and most importantly, acts as a rock for these children.

My sister made me realize that, like everyone else, these kids deserve a chance to learn and live a normal life, regardless of their situation. Watching her work with these kids was amazing. In her classroom, I saw students with a vast array of disabilities, including schizophrenia, Down syndrome, autism, and hearing and vision impairments. In most cases, students have multiple disabilities and because of this, my sister must personalize every lesson for each child.

About halfway through the day, a student named Tyree came up to me and very politely introduced himself. We began chatting as Lindsay and Tyree's aide watched ecstatically; after working with Tyree for so long, he had finally learned how to carry on a conversation.

In the afternoon I attended the Center's Christmas concert. My sister appeared onstage with her students who sang “Jingle Bells.” Halfway through the women sitting next to me burst into tears; she was Tyree's mom. After the song was over and tissues had been distributed, she turned to me and whispered, “He could barely speak before he came here.”

Lindsay is a hero in every sense of the word. She loves her students unconditionally. Despite bruises, bite marks, and the occasional bad day, she is always there for them. Her students can count on her.

Now that I am older, I can redefine my idea of a hero a bit. They do not have to have brute physical strength. Power comes in many shapes and forms. My sister sometimes has circles under her eyes and her shoulders slump, but I know she is a very strong, tough woman. Every day she pushes through her exhaustion for the sake of her students.

A hero inspires someone to be a decent, strong individual. That is exactly what Lindsay does. I hope to grow up to be half as beautiful, smart, funny, inspirational, and wonderful as she is.

Most importantly, I think a hero never realizes that she is a hero. My sister always claims that she learns more from her students than they learn from her. But I know that this is not the case, and Tyree proves that.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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