This past Thursday, all students in the Department of Education at Mount Union and students in the Alliance City Schools, had the honor of hearing author Mike Kersejes speak about his book, Smile as Big as the Moon. Mike is a special education teacher who wrote a book on his experiences with his special education class and their adventure to space camp! While discussing special education, Mike talked a lot about how we as future educators need to remember many things when working with these children. One important point that he made right at the beginning of his speech really spoke to me – “We need to start asking what the child does know, instead of what he or she doesn’t know.” Mike emphasized how important it was that we encourage students with special needs and focus strictly on the positives.
Mike told the story of how he wanted to try and teach the kids in his class what it meant to be on a team and the concept of teamwork. “Teamwork makes the dream work,” he said. And, for the kids in his class, he wanted to show them that they could reach their dreams by working together as a team. He had an idea, and a crazy one at that. He wanted to take his special needs class to space camp. Everyone in the school thought he was crazy and no one wanted to help him raise money for them to go. Mike’s class finally did receive a sponsor (The Burger King Corporation), and from there they ventured off to space camp. At space camp, the kids ended up doing very well. They took 1st, 2nd and 3rd place awards in different events and really learned how to work through different obstacles and challenges that may have been easier for the other teams at the camp. To me, this showed that nothing is impossible with teamwork. While it may seem that children with special needs have some set backs, we as teachers can teach them to work hard together, so they can do anything they set their minds to.
Mike still takes his special education class to space camp every year and they never place anything less than 3rd in the different events. I was truly inspired by Mike and everything he had to say to us. He truly taught his students how to conquer their fears, by simply just believing in them and pushing them to work together. I highly suggest everyone read his book, Smile as Big as the Moon. I know it’s going to be first on my summer reading list!