Heartland AEA Staff Make Caring Connection Beyond Education

glassesAmy Lane, School Improvement Leader at East High School in Des Moines, felt compelled to write to Heartland AEA about two staff members who went above and beyond to help one of her students.

Imagine seeing the world through lenses that are upside down and inside out. For a student at Des Moines’ East High School, this was the reality. Jeffrey had the same glasses since he was a first grade student at Howe Elementary. His glasses are highly specialized to accommodate his vision needs, and therefore quite expensive.

Now a junior in high school, Jeffrey was struggling to see. Several individuals at East commented on the general appearance of his glass frames. They were rather bent, with lenses that just did not seem to be a good fit. Through further inquiry, it was learned that when the original frames had broken, Jeffery located extra frames at a friend’s home, removed the lenses and inserted his own into the pair.

Unfortunately, without the studies in optometry to support his “quick fix,” the lenses were upside down and in front of the wrong eye.

There was an obvious need for Jeffrey to receive new glasses, but there were limited opportunities to remedy the situation. In a casual conversation, Amy Lane, school improvement leader at East, shared the story of Jeffrey with two Heartland AEA staff members, Gilmara Mitchell, professional learning & leadership consultant, and Julie Hukee, math curriculum consultant. Ironically, Gilmara had been Jeffrey’s first grade teacher and remembered him well. Gilmara and Amy began calling local agencies to explore options for acquiring new glasses for Jeffrey.

When the possibilities became scarce, Julie called her brother, an optometrist, to ask for his assistance. Within the next week, Dr. Matthew Pollastrini met Jeffrey at a local clinic and gave him a free eye exam. It was determined that Jeffrey’s extreme condition required highly specialized lenses that few optical labs make. Matt contacted a friend at Midwest Labs in Indianola who agreed to make the lenses. Because of the generosity of the professionals at Midwest Labs, the cost was only a fraction of what it normally would have been. Matt also donated the frames that Jeffrey wanted.

In education the lenses are not always rose colored and often are upside down and inside out. The partnerships between our schools, our AEAs and our numerous local organizations are of great value for the continuous support of our students. These individuals add compassion and clarity to the true meaning of our profession.

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