It’s tough being a teacher — and even tougher living on a teacher’s salary

I have been teaching in the Pittsburgh area for the past decade. I chose a career in public education because I couldn’t imagine a better way to change the world. Teachers educate and inspire the young people who will be the leaders of tomorrow. When I walk into my classroom, I’m witnessing the future take shape.

But it’s tough being a teacher, and it’s even tougher living on a teacher’s salary.

Women my age weren’t called ‘autistic’ growing up. We were awkward or ‘rude.’ And we missed out on services.

You know me. If you’re over the age of say, 40, chances are you went to school with a girl like me. I was more or less on even footing with you academically, but I struggled with everything else. My physical movements were often spastic and jerky. I blurted rather than talked. I couldn’t hold a pencil properly. I got upset when rules weren’t followed. I was eager to please; yet I sometimes said the dumbest, rudest thing possible.

To me, accessibility feels like an afterthought in Pittsburgh development

Having spinal muscular atrophy means that I’ve never been able to walk. I’ve used a wheelchair since I was about 3 years old. I rely on help from others for many parts of my day — bathing, getting dressed, making my meals and just generally getting around.
I still try to be independent however I can. Growing up, I went to public school and took classes with my peers. I lived in the dorms with the rest of the students in college. I work as a research coordinator at the University of Pittsburgh and am pursuing my master’s degree in public health.

A pedestrian crosses the street in Beechview. (Photo by Kat Procyk/PublicSource)

Some communities view streets as pedestrian spaces. Could Pittsburghers benefit from more room to play?

Given that our streets are one of our largest public assets, can we do more to use them? The city has already embraced some aspects of the open streets concept. There are models for increasing temporary recreational spaces on streets and open lots in cities like New York and Minneapolis. What would it take for residents to take greater advantage of streets on a regular basis, especially in areas with fewer play options, where streets could be connectors instead of barriers?

Ableism at the dinner table: How I learned to ignore glares and let my arms ‘dance’

My arms were constantly in motion, as if I were conducting a never-ending orchestra. Sometimes the movements were fluid, smooth even, but other times my right arm looked as though it were climbing an invisible jungle gym, my muscles contracting and tensing in uncomfortable positions. It was the tangible evidence of years of internalized ableism and shame.