Being a Sanfilippo Sibling Will Make Me a Better Teacher

Being a Sanfilippo Sibling Will Make Me a Better Teacher
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Last week, I passed an exam that will allow me to begin teaching this fall. I thought it would be fitting to reflect on how important teachers have been in my life, and how being a Sanfilippo sibling will make me a better teacher, just as it’s made me a better person.

My first three years of high school were great. I had many friends and a fun schedule and was excited about my future. When my senior year started, my sister’s health had already been declining, but we didn’t have answers yet about the cause. Making matters worse, my mom was diagnosed with stage 3 cancer a couple of months into my senior year.

Needless to say, I had to find ways to manage schoolwork along with everything that was happening to my family. I explained the situation to most of my teachers, and those who made sure to check in with me throughout the year left a lasting impression. Those teachers made me want to be there for future students who might struggle with something outside of the classroom.

The same was true with my college professors. When my sister, Abby, was diagnosed with Sanfilippo syndrome, I was in my sophomore year of college. When the diagnosis came, I had the same overwhelming feeling as I did in high school. This time, though, Abby hadn’t changed, but my emotions had. We finally had the name of a disease — and it had the word “terminal” attached to it. I felt alone, resentful, and indescribably sad.

Attending school during my mom’s cancer treatment and Abby’s Sanfilippo diagnosis gave me an immense appreciation for teachers who take the extra step of looking out for their students. This experience will help to shape my own teaching philosophy. And Abby will continue to instill kindness, compassion, and acceptance in me, making me a better teacher.

This week, fellow Sanfilippo sibling Grey Chapin wrote in her blog about an experience she had in school. She talked about finding a friend who could relate to what she goes through, and the fact that “not everyone understands.” I can relate.

I think that being a Sanfilippo sibling will help me to be one of those teachers who does understand. Much like how my relationship with Abby helps to shape my perspective on sisterhood, being Abby’s sister makes me look at every person I meet with a different lens.

Many of the qualities that will make me a better teacher come from my relationship with Abby. The more columns I write, the more I realize how much of myself and my mindset I owe to her. The teachers in my life have made an impact, too, and helped me through some of the most difficult times. And Abby is perhaps the person who has taught me the most.

Who are the important people in your life who have helped shape who you are? Please share in the comments below. 

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Note: Sanfilippo 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 Sanfilippo News or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Sanfilippo syndrome.

Emily Wallis is a 22-year-old first-grade teacher. Her sister, Abby, has a rare, neurodegenerative disease called Sanfilippo Syndrome, which has been coined a “Childhood Alzheimer’s.” She is a Houston, TX native and enjoys all types of writing, spending time with her family and friends, and learning something new every day.
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Emily Wallis is a 22-year-old first-grade teacher. Her sister, Abby, has a rare, neurodegenerative disease called Sanfilippo Syndrome, which has been coined a “Childhood Alzheimer’s.” She is a Houston, TX native and enjoys all types of writing, spending time with her family and friends, and learning something new every day.
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