You might consider her an unlikely hero.
You'll probably never meet her in person.
She lives on the backside of the desert, on the other side of the world.
I only met her once and I can't even recall her name.
But I'll never forget HER.
HERO budding, blooming... flowering from HER.
She teaches every day in a classroom very much like this. Eight AM, when her students arrive, they cram - quite literally, into this tiny cement block room with louvered windows, intermittent electricity and never any air-conditioning, even in 120'F heat, and four students to a desk/bench combo. Imagine 50-60 eight-year-olds photo-shopped into the photo. Each one brings a slate and chalk in their backpack or portfolio. There are only a few textbooks and they belong to the teacher.
She is responsible for teaching these children, who speak a variety of languages at home, to understand, speak and read French. She patiently and repeatedly demonstrates the specifics of adding and subtracting, with regrouping. She works to help them learn the history of their country and some basics about science. If she sends a too unruly child to the school's director, she knows that said child will probably receive lashes from an old fan belt from an angry hand determined to enforce respect.
She's never been to university. Her teacher-training consisted of a summer program that lasted about six weeks. All other learning tumbles under the umbrella of on-the-job training. Frankly, however, this is all the norm for most Nigerien teachers. In fact, most of this description is... pretty typical, I mean. In fact, she has it relatively good because she works at a private school. Public school teachers, some years, spend more time striking because they aren't getting paid than they spend in the classroom, interacting with their students.
What set this woman apart was her striving to address the needs of ALL her students. Friends requested that I go to her school, observe her classroom, observe her teaching practices and observe one little one, in particular. That child was an exceptional student, struggled to learn and would most likely never achieve like other classmates. For this young one had Down's Syndrome. In Niger, most students with learning difficulties or handicaps like Down's are removed from the education system. You most often find these children doing menial labor in abusive situations... or begging at a street corner.
She is a Jesus-follower, so she wanted to be different. She wanted to communicate to this child's parents that Jesus' love was different and therefore made her different, that His love helped her to love what most considered unlovable. She recognized that God makes each and every one valuable and with potential. She was willing to act on the glimpses the Holy Spirit had given her. As a result, ALL of her HER students stepped towards their promise and possibilities.
And she is one of my heroes.
Friday - and once again I'm posting with a group of lovely ladies over at Lisa Jo's.
Hope you'll join us!