MARSHALL COUNTY, Ala. — Mrs. Lori Robles found a love for sign language when she was in just the second grade, learning about Hellen Keller and Anne Sullivan. Now she has been a special education teacher for 26 years.
"If somebody asked me, 'Who are you?' The first thing that comes to my mind is, I am a teacher of these kids. That's that's my first thing, so that's just who I am," shares Mrs. Lori Robles, the Valley's Top Teacher.
Mrs. Robles has a big love for the kids in her special education class at Brindlee Mountain Primary School and also for her community. She actually went to Grassy Elementary, which was the old Brindlee Mountain Elementary. Students in her class learn a variety of things, from matching pictures to reading. But the most important focus is life skills.
"I want them to be able to go to McDonald's and order their food, and do all these regular things that we take for granted every day," explains Mrs. Robles. "So that's my goal, for them is to be able to do those things."
Many of Mrs. Robles' students cannot talk, so she makes it a point to be their advocate, their protector, and their voice.
"I have one student who is tube fed every day, and that student I might say, I protect that student's lunchtime. You know, that's their lunchtime," she says. "They need to sit at the table with everyone else. They need to be involved in the group, not just sitting off to the side being tube fed."
At the beginning of 2020, right before the pandemic, Brindlee Mountain Primary School was heavily damaged by a tornado. All of the classes had to be moved to the middle school campus. Mrs. Robles gave her kids extra care during that transition by making sure they felt comfortable in their new space. They were luckily not in school when the tornado hit, but some of her students still think about that day.
"If it starts to rain, sometimes he has said before 'The tornado is in the rain.' And he'll say 'Your school is being destroyed', and he gets really upset. And so what I'll do with him, I sit him on my lap and I'll say in his ear really quietly. 'Miss Lori will always keep you safe. You are safe at school, Miss Lori will keep you safe.' And it will calm him down. He'll start saying, 'Miss Lori will keep you safe.'"
Mrs. Robles says it is so important to know the hard work that these kids put in everyday. She loves watching them grow each year and says it is truly a team effort.
"Those kids come in and they work as hard as they can," says Mrs. Robles with tears in her eyes. "And we love them so much and we give so much of ourselves and my paraprofessionals are wonderful, and it just takes all of us."
She says God has brought her to where she is now, and that with her students, in this classroom, is where her heart is.
"They mean everything to me."
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