Adrienne Geiseman wants to help her students realize their abilities.
Geiseman is a special education assistant at St. Charles North High School. The Elburn resident knows the importance of having young people realize their abilities.
Her son was diagnosed with sensory and learning disabilities and it was seeing others working with him that inspired her to become a special education assistant.
“I saw the work that other teachers and behavioral specialists were doing with my son and I started to realize that maybe I would be good to help other kids,” Geiseman said. “Without their help, I never would have made it. I just kind of wanted to pay it forward and help other kids. I could have never survived without having all those teachers helping him along the way.”
Her son, who is 19, has overcome some of his obstacles and is taking classes at Waubonsee Community College.
On a day-to-day basis, Geiseman is in six classes helping kids with varying needs.
“I do have students that have autism that I help in math and art and different classes,” she said.
One of her students, Maya Townsend, has cerebral palsy. This fall, Geiseman helped Townsend, who is a sophomore at St. Charles North, with her desire to participate in swimming for the first time.
“I was helping her in a P.E. class and they had to do swimming as a school requirement,” Geiseman said. “And then the head swim coach, Rob Rooney, saw us working together and he approached us about doing swim team. And he found out by talking to me that I used to swim and I used to coach. He saw Maya’s abilities and said this would be a great match for a swim team.”
Townsend was the state champion in the 50 and 100 freestyles for athletes with disabilities, an accomplishment that made Geiseman and others proud.
“She continued to drop time every single race,” Geiseman said. “She just got faster each time.”
During practices, Geiseman reminded Townsend not to focus on her disability.
“I didn’t want her to use her disability as a reason why she couldn’t do it,” she said. “I wanted her to realize that in swimming and in life, that she needed to keep pushing herself out of her comfort zone. She didn’t want to hear that sometimes.”
Swimming also helped Townsend physically by strengthening her core muscles, which in turn made walking easier for her.
St. Charles North Athletic Director Joe Benoit is impressed with all that Geiseman did to help Townsend.
“Here is District 303, we are really looking at truly creating a sense of belonging,” he said. “Adrienne absolutely has supported that and made it a point to provide an opportunity for one of our students here that really supports that vision that we have for belonging. And we’re just so fortunate to have such a quality educator in this building.”
Geiseman wanted to help Townsend in her efforts from the get-go.
“Adrienne rolled up her sleeves and said, ‘How do I help? What do we do?’ ‘’ Benoit said. “Going down to practice and seeing her on deck working with the student and cheering her on constantly, being her biggest fan, and at the same time providing her with the instruction she needed to grow and improve was really cool to watch.”
Benoit sees Townsend’s efforts in turn providing inspiration to other students.
“There’s no doubt about it,” he said. “Maya is an exceptional young lady and truly embodies the spirit of what we want here for all of our student-athletes, a spirit of being able to handle diversity, to always put forth 100% effort and to represent our school and this district with character and class.”