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Struggles Part Of The Journey
Friday 5 April 2019
Struggles part of the journey
La Lumiere teacher honored for 'changing life of student'
La PORTE – Matt Buchanan calls teaching a journey. "Since the age of 23, I've been on a constant journey to improve as a teacher – and after 20 years, I'm still learning," the head of the English Department at La Lumiere School said.
Sometimes, the journey can be challenging, as Buchanan, 43, has had to overcome serious health issues to continue the career he loves.
And sometimes it can be rewarding, as when the motivation he provided a student facing her own health issues led to Buchanan receiving the prestigious Honored teaching award for February, along with a $5,000 cash award and $1,000 DonorsChoose.org gift card.
That new understanding was certainly a benefit to Gina Billys, a 2018 La Lumiere graduate.
“Growing up, I had a pretty easy life,” Billys, a former straight-A student, said in an interview with Steve Padilla of the Los Angeles Times showcase Column One for Honored.org. “During the school year, I would put in the work while still having a great deal of fun. ... I didn’t have anything to complain about.”
Then she contracted the Epstein-Barr virus, which eventually led to mononucleosis and then Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, which causes exhaustion not relieved by rest. By her senior year, she was failing classes for the first time in her life.
At the same time, her family was facing financial hardship for the first time and her grandfather suffered a major stroke, compounding her own personal and health challenges to the point it appeared she might not graduate.
"Since I've been a teacher – 20 years – I've always felt that students teach me more than I teach them. Gina helped me to see – though I'm sure she didn't know it at the time – that there is a benefit to my own health issues, inasmuch as I'm more understanding than I would have been before spending a bit of time in the ER, and had this intuitive understanding of all the emotion that goes with trying to get work done while also battling a sickness that makes you want to just go home and sleep.
"A lot of times, students need to know that it's OK to struggle, that there's a light at the end of the tunnel," he said. "Having a teacher sit down during writer's workshop and talk you through a paper – or three – can do that for a student, and I think that was primarily what helped Gina out."
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