Teacher is a Guardian Angel for EDS Teen

This is a touching story of a dedicated educator who is there to support her students.  The Canadian teacher is given an award  in recognition of her efforts to enable students, like EDSer Emma Steckner, to continue to attend school and succeed.

Burlington Post

 “To some, she is not just a special education resource teacher; she’s a guardian angel.

NNelsonHighelson High School’s Wendy Malloch is known for going above and beyond for her students, particularly Emma Steckner, 16, who suffers from a rare illness, which causes her chronic pain and fatigue.

“I don’t think I’d be able to be (in school) without the support that she gives,” said Steckner, who was not feeling well when she spoke to the Post, her voice weak over the phone. “She’s really nice. She’s just lovely.”

On June 19, Malloch was presented with the ILC (Improving the Life of Children) Foundation’s 2013 Award of Excellence in recognition of her efforts to enable students like Steckner to attend school, achieve in her courses and succeed overall.

Mary Steckner, Emma’s mom, said knowing that Malloch is at the school with her daughter is reassuring.

“It’s been wonderful for Emma to have somebody that she can go to for any support and for me to know that Emma’s got the support that she needs and there’s somebody who really takes the time to listen and be creative about solutions,” she said.

According to Mary, her daughter began displaying symptoms around four years ago. It took doctors three years to come up with an explanation.

Steckner was diagnosed with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (EDS), a connective tissue (skin, joints, blood vessel walls) disorder that causes her severe chronic pain and fatigue. She also has a condition related to EDS called Dysautonomia, which means her body struggles to regulate basic body functions, such as blood pressure, heart rate, digestion and body temperature.

Her illness has made it difficult for Steckner, currently in Grade 11, to attend school on a regular basis.

In order to accommodate her student, Malloch has been known to go to Steckner’s home for one-on-one instruction as well as collaborate with the teen online. She has been credited with advocating for Steckner within the school and liaising for her with her teachers.

Malloch, 45, who has been teaching for 15 years, five years in special ed., said she is a little embarrassed by the public acknowledgment she has received from the award.

“You’re always doing your best for students but it’s really nice to sometimes get that formal recognition especially because I am in special education, so much of what you do is kind of behind the scenes and underwater,” she said.

“Every kid is a bit of a puzzle and they tend to end up in special education because the regular system doesn’t work for them for one reason or another. Figuring out the ways to make it work for them, I love that matching pieces to the puzzle side of it,” Malloch continued.

“I love that creative, outside the box, trying until you find something that really works and being able to work with the actual student.”

When Steckner is well enough to attend classes, her unique needs have also been met by Nelson High School, which has taken steps to make her pain more manageable.

Mary said the school has provided her daughter with a quiet place to retreat to when she needs to rest, allowing Emma to remain in school longer and has provided her with more comfortable seating, which allows her to stay in class for the duration of her lessons.

Sandy Smeenk, Executive Director of the ILC Foundation, said Malloch’s contribution to Steckner’s education is worthy of the organizations first ever excellence award.

“We’ve had more cases that went the other way, where there was no support,” said Smeenk. “When we learned about Emma and the tremendous support that she received, it struck a chord and it needed to be recognized and honoured because Wendy went way above the call of duty and the school supported her  doing that and so did the school board.”

The ILC Foundation’s mission is to raise awareness about children with chronic pain as well as advocate for them and offer peer support. The organization is currently working towards funding clinical research to develop best care practices.

Smeenk said the foundation is hoping to continue the awards next year but expand it to recognize numerous individuals and schools that show exemplary support to students with chronic pain.”

For more information, visit www.theilcfoundation.org

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