President’s Letter to Guests at Theresa Foundation Awards Dinner
By Susan S. Russo


How sad is that childhood refrain?  Especially because we all know it simply is not true.  Broken bones heal, but we remember words for a lifetime.


I am “numerically challenged” and often make jokes about it.  But I can trace my problems with digits back to a single comment from a very mean fourth grade teacher (circa 1962).  I am now 56 years old, and I still despise anything having to do with any form of math.


Why do I mention this?


Two reasons:

One: It is an example of how one comment can affect a person for life.


Two: This example provides a teachable moment for us all to think about how we adapt, grow and change given the obstacles that life puts before us.


I make jokes to my students about my “numerical challenges” because it is a very real obstacle for me.  I often say that God directed me toward a path of being a dance teacher because dancers only really have to know how to count to eight!


I think back over my more than 35 year career in teaching and reflect on how that one single moment in time taught me now NOT to treat any student under my care.  Simply put, my fourth grade teacher’s lack of teaching skill has made me a better teacher and guides me always to remember the “Golden Rule.”


Now, pause for a moment and think about the lives of Children with Special Needs.


Every day they may hear negative, condescending comments from classmates, the school bus driver, people at the grocery store, and even relatives.  They are bombarded by disparaging comments about what they can and cannot do, achieve, or accomplish when a few well placed, encouraging, positive words can make all the difference in the way a child feels about himself and the world around him.


Since I can only count to EIGHT, here are EIGHT things that we all believe are possible, and we thank you for helping make these EIGHT things a reality!


  1. If a child lives with ridicule, he learns to be shy.
  2. If a child lives with shame, he learns to feel guilty.
  3. If a child lives with praise, he learns to appreciate.
  4. If a child lives with encouragement, he learns confidence.
  5. If a child lives with fairness, he learns justice.
  6. If a child lives with security, he learns faith.
  7. If a child lives with approval, he learns to like himself.
  8. If a child lives with acceptance and friendship, he learns to find love in the world.                                                                                                             (adapted from Dorothy Law Nolte)

Peace and Blessings,


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