My Dad and I Share the Same Passion for Education

Adapted physical education would've been great for him, as it is for me

Jackie Babiarz avatar

by Jackie Babiarz |

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While growing up, I remember my dad mentioning a few times that he always wanted to be a teacher. He was a wonderful electrical engineer, and he also would have made an excellent teacher and coach. He could have taught science or math, but I think his niche would’ve been physical education or special education.

Whether it was because my dad was the runt of his large family growing up, an all-star wrestler in high school, or had six children of his own with different levels of athleticism, he always loved a good underdog story.

When he coached one of my five siblings and others in sports growing up, my dad always gave extra one-on-one attention to those who were new to the sport or had extra needs. He thrived in situations when a child was a little slower to pick up the mechanics. He was so patient. He recognized when some children might not have been receiving support at home.

My dad understood emotional intelligence before it was even a thing. He acted as the players’ proud parent when they made their first basket or hit their first baseball.

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My dad was instrumental in my career path of becoming a physical education (PE) teacher after graduating college. He was also key when we were searching for a diagnosis for my firstborn, Cammy. He came to many of Cammy’s early appointments and therapies. Not only was he present to provide me with support, he also wanted to learn how else he could help. In 2011, when Cammy was diagnosed with Rett syndrome, he joined online Rett forums. Like any great teacher, he learned enough about a topic new to him so he could teach others about it.

When Cammy was 9 months old, she became his student, his underdog player. While her two same-age cousins, Anthony and Olivia, were crawling around her, my dad would hold Cammy upright for weight-bearing exercise. When Anthony and Olivia began walking, my dad would sit Cammy on his belly, shifting her back and forth to work on her reflexes and balance. When the cousins ran around my parents’ backyard, my dad would hold Cammy by the water table and assist her so she could play, too.

Even after my dad’s body was failing him and he was in a wheelchair like Cammy, he found ways to interact with her. He, more than anyone, understood the idea of presence over presents. He understood the value of just being there for the child.

As I’m preparing for my school year after being a stay-at-home-mom for the past 14 years, I’ve been thinking about how my dad would have been perfect for this new position I’m filling in adapted physical education, which modifies PE for those with disabilities. It would represent the culmination of his life. It’s the culmination of my life.

All the life experiences, the emotional intelligence, the tremendous parents and teachers I’ve had — I carry these with me as I prepare to work with children as sensational as Cammy.

Note: Rett Syndrome News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Rett Syndrome News or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Rett syndrome.


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