DR RADICA MAHASE
American Historian and politician, Henry Brooks Adams once said, “A teacher affects eternity. He can never tell where his influence stops.”
The impact that a good teacher can make on a child’s life is often underestimated. That is why I decided to highlight Celine Frederick today. Celine is a very confident, self-assured, mature, 20 year old from Gasparillo who developed an interest in pursuing a career as an educator because of the initial influence of her primary schoolteacher.
Celine is presently a year-two student at the University of Trinidad and Tobago, pursuing her Bachelor of Education in Special Needs and Primary Education. She is also a Youth Autism Ambassador, an executive member at Support Autism T&T. She is also a director at the Autism Siblings and Friends Network and the main co-ordinator of the NGO’s centre, Rahul’s Clubhouse. Celine was shortlisted last year for the Ministry of Youth Development and National Service, National Youth Awards 2021, in the category Youth Leadership – Students.
Celine states, “The words of Carl Buechner, ‘They may forget what you said but they will not forget how you made them feel,’ describe one of the key factors that influenced my upcoming career path and my actions as an individual. My motivation and inspiration to become a teacher came from Miss Andrea Khan, one of my previous teachers at Vos Government Primary School. Miss Khan was an exceptional teacher, she made the art of teaching seem like a passion that was graceful, where the satisfaction was immeasurable and not a tedious job.
From primary school, I was able to identify the importance of teachers and how I would be able to make a difference in the life of every child that I met. As the years passed, I’ve never had a doubt that this was not the career path for me. I chose special-needs education because of my experiences as a volunteer. I began volunteering with Support Autism T&T in 2015 where I was able to work with many persons on the autism spectrum. I volunteered at my former pre-school during the July-August vacation in 2018. I also became a tutor with the Sixth Formers Association in 2019. I was able to interact with children of different backgrounds, varied exceptionalities and unique lifestyles.
However, as I passionately continued my voluntary work with Support Autism T&T, I realised that my purpose is to make a difference in society, where I can aid in creating an inclusive environment for all persons with disabilities and not only the ones who are high functioning. I was able to interact with children on the autism spectrum who were non-verbal for the very first time. The feeling of joy and satisfaction knowing that I was able to make that child happy and feel included as we engaged in a variety of activities was unforgettable. I encouraged my peers and any youths with whom I interacted, to volunteer, as I could not have kept this learning experience and joyous feeling to myself.
After my experiences interacting with several parents who are struggling to find schools for their children which meet their individual needs and family’s economic status, it has inspired me to follow this career path in special education.
My intention in the near future is to open my own special-education school, creating opportunities for each child and their family members where they will feel included in our society, at an affordable cost. As a prospective special-education teacher, I have learnt about the varying learning abilities of individuals and I would like to see all teachers use inclusive strategies in their classrooms and make the extra effort to ensure the needs of each child is met.
Children are the future of our country and they deserve every right to be included and given opportunities that are equitable to be able to function in our society. I urge everyone to do some research and become educated about persons with exceptionalities so we can fully accept, understand and include these persons in our society.
My personal motto is, ‘Advocate for those who can’t advocate for themselves’. I urge everyone, youths and adults to become more aware and accepting of the unique persons around us, as we can create this big change together and make TT a more inclusive country.”
Celine had a strong foundation, one which her teacher Miss Khan helped to build, one which set her on a noble path. As USA politician Solomon Ortiz,once said, “Education is the key to success in life and teachers make a lasting impact on the lives of their students.”
Dr Radica Mahase is the founder/director of Support Autism T&T