***Post written by Don Rentz, Scholarship Chair for WSPA***

The end of the school certainly brings a lot of anticipation of the summer’s activities planned ahead. But it also causes some reflection of work accomplished.The following letter was posted on Facebook by a parent. I don’t have permission to share it so I’ll change identifying information. Working in the field of education we don’t often hear appreciation as much as is deserved. There are many families that all of you work with that are appreciative, but haven’t penned a letter. So, please substitute a student’s information that you’ve worked with. Undoubtedly, you deserve this thanks as well.

“Your son, _____, has autism.”

In that moment the entire blueprint we had carefully worked on for our new family was thrown into the bonfire. All the plans we had for what our family would look like became sand between our fingers.  We were now confronted with the inherent fears that comes with raising a child who was caught up in the spectrum of autism.   I remember how overwhelmed we were with all that we were told we needed to do to help _______.  Our hearts still carry the scars from how scared and helpless we felt at the time.

In that doctors office in Denver, sixteen years ago the direction of our family changed forever. And for a brief moment we felt untethered to any sense of hope and security.  For a period of time the story of our family was being written by terror and grief.

That’s when you all came in and helped us rewrite our story.

Over the past sixteen years our family have been incredibly fortunate to have been served and cared for by the countless of angels who work for the _________ School District. From ________’s first moments in Kindergarten to his last day at High School our family has been supported beyond our wildest hopes.   Throughout his academic career in _____, which included ____________ and then the public schools of ________ and ________ we encountered countless angels that helped _________on his journey.

While we understand that no education system works perfectly for every family –  we always felt like we were in the hands of people who truly did care for our son and wanted nothing more than for him to succeed.  Our experience has with _____ could not have been better.

It would be fair to say that our family stress tested every service and policy that ____ had to off and we are proud to say that you all passed with flying colors!

Every concern we had was listened to.  Every obstacle in _____’s way was met with a prescription of how we could all work to overcome it.  Every phone frantic  we made was returned.  Every tear or raised voice we may have had was responded to with empathy and patience.  Every IEP meeting we attended felt like it was a genuine gathering of the minds where our voices were treated with absolute respect.  Throughout our winding journey inside ______ it ALWAYS felt like we as parents and you as the staff were on the same team. It wasn’t us vs. you.  It was just all of us, a team of people who wanted to lift ______ up as high as he could go.

We know that there is always a lot of criticism that can be leveled both fairly and unfairly at our educational system.  Let our family be counted as those who will forever be grateful to the hundreds of teachers/administrators/therapists/educational assistants/support staff of ________ who opened their hearts to our ______ and his terrified parents.  Being a teacher in this day and age seems to be an often thankless vocation.  Every single day you are expected to be miracle workers and emotional punching bags.  Every single day you all show up and pour your souls into your craft without ever knowing if you will be able to see the final outcome of all your labor.  Being a teacher seems to be like being a gardener who usually does not get to witness the final bloom.

There must be days when it may not feel like you are making a difference in the lives of your students and in their families.

Let this letter be proof that you do make a difference.  Whether you are ever told again or now please know that your sacrifice and your compassion has terraformed the landscape of our family.   We cannot thank you enough.  We will always be indebted to you.

Whether or not your taught our son, (or even if you aren’t from ________) you are part of the same family of educators who have given their lives for the betterment of our community.  We are so grateful for every one of you. I cannot imagine where our family would be without the talent and grace that we have encountered in the halls of the schools in ___________.

Next year, ________ will be attending ___________ to study media to pursue his love of film editing. Through all of his hard work and all of your dedication he is leaving the nest to stretch his wings.  As parents we are not nearly as scared as we were on his first day of Kindergarten those many years ago because of all that you have done for us. You have given _______ and his parents all the tools we need to keep the journey moving forward!

Our family will forever carry our gratitude with us for all that you have done for us. Even if you never met our family or worked with our son before we are still so very grateful for all the love you have given to the young people in our community.

Thank you for taking such good care of our family. Thank you for not giving up on us.  Thank you for sharing your gifts with our children.  Thank you for everything you have done for us.  Thank you for being the angels that waited for us when we came back from that doctor’s office in Denver those many years ago.  It took a village – but what an amazing village it was.

Enjoy your summer!  You have earned every second of it!