In a class of her own

She has Down Syndrome, but a 31-year-old has overcome the odds to become a preschool teacher.

WHEN Noelia Garella was a child, a nursery school rejected her as a “monster.” Now at the age of 31, she is a teacher.

In the face of prejudice, she is the first person with Down syndrome to work as a preschool teacher in Argentina — and one of the few in the world.

Garella’s case set a precedent after the school confronted a taboo: could a person with a cognitive syndrome be in charge of a class?

Her two- and three-year-old pupils crowd around her affectionately in her classroom in the Jermonito nursery. At her bidding, they sit down for a story and watch engrossed as she reads, following her lead as she imitates a shark, baring her teeth.

“I adore this. Ever since I was little, I have always wanted to be a teacher, because I like children so much,” she says.

“I want them to read and listen, because in society people have to listen to one another.”

Garella’s determination inspired her colleagues to hire her at the preschool in the northern city of Cordoba, despite reservations in some quarters.

One party “in a position of responsibility” judged that she should not take classes because of her condition, said Alejandra Senestrari, the former director of the school who hired Garella.

Teachers, parents and even the city’s mayor intervened. They decided there was no reason Garella could not teach early-learning reading classes.

“With time, even those who had been opposed joined in the initiative to hire Noelia as a teacher,” said Senestrari. “We very quickly realised that she had a strong vocation. She gave what the children in the nursery classes most appreciate, which is love.”

A genetic condition, Down syndrome typically affects a person’s physical and intellectual growth.

In Garella’s case, it has done nothing to diminish her optimism and self-belief.

Standing by her side, her mother, Mercedes Cabrera, looks tearful when her daughter tells the story of the day care centre director who told Garella’s parents: “No monsters here.”

But Garella smiles. “That teacher is like a story that I read to the children,” she says.

“She is a sad monster, who knows nothing and gets things wrong. I am the happy monster.”

Lesson in life

Garella’s colleagues have been moved by her case.


Read more @

Comments are closed.