The Gift

Dr. Paula Primeau, R.T. (R)(ARRT)
Clinical Coordinator for Radiologic Technology

I began my teaching career about twenty years ago working for a private, non-profit institution in higher education. I recently came to Lansing Community College in February of 2018 for what I consider my dream job. At the time, I did not know what was ahead of me as I entered the community college teaching arena. Two days after my arrival I learned of a significant challenge assigned to me and the greatest gift of my teaching career.

For purposes of this writing, I will call this student Mike to maintain his anonymity. Mike was a self-disclosed student with autism. During the initial meeting Mike disclosed his form of autism to me and politely shook my hand. I had no previous knowledge of Mike’s type of disability, but I knew I had to do some research to fully understand. The task presented to me was to assist Mike in the successful completion of the Radiologic Technology program.

My experience teaching previously had not exposed me to the privilege of working with students that have disabilities. I took on this task by jumping in and supporting the mission of Lansing Community College, “to provide high-quality education ensuring that all students successfully complete their educational goals while developing life skills necessary for them to enrich and support themselves, their families, and their community as engaged global citizens.”

After completing my research on Mike’s disability, I tailored several forms of knowledge application to fit Mike’s needs. He was having difficulty with processes and staying on task especially if interrupted. I developed some mnemonics to assist him. My goal was to assist Mike in the areas of focus and retention of material, along with helping his communication/social skills.

Mike and I spent many hours reviewing and repeating information. Co-workers or I would be his patient to practice. The best benefit of this time spent together was Mike’s passion and determination to be successful. I planned our learning sessions according to Mike’s needs and the requirements of a Radiologic Technologist.

As the four months to graduation progressed, Mike learned that with hard work and repetition and using the mnemonics he was able to re-focus on a task and complete it even if he was interrupted. I learned to teach creatively outside the box and to be passionate about teaching to meet ALL student’s needs. I honestly feel that I learned more than Mike did. When June came, I had the honor of watching Mike walk across the stage at graduation. This was the greatest gift of my career. Thank you Mike. I am so proud of you!