31-year-old Noelia Garella, a preschool teacher, is Argentina’s first teacher with Down Syndrome. And hopefully, she won’t be the last.
Every time you worry that the world is getting worse, a story comes along that revives your faith in humanity. The story of Noelia Garella, a 31-year-old Argentine woman with Down Syndrome who overcame countless obstacles on her way to become a nursery school teacher, is one of those stories.
According to The Independent, life has come full circle for Noelia. As a child, she was rejected from attending a nursery school and referred to as a “monster.” Now, she teaches early reading to preschool students, and they see her as anything but.
Alejandra Senistrari, the former director of the school who hired Noelia says, “We very quickly realized that she had a strong vocation. She gave what the children in the nursery classes most appreciate, which is love.”
She reads stories to classes of two and three-year-olds, relishing the chance to interact with the kids, and inadvertently teaching them about much more than reading. In recounting the story of the teacher who refused to admit Noelle and told her parents, she displays uncommon wisdom.
“No monsters here,” she says, “That teacher is like a story that I read to the children,” she says. “She is a sad monster, who knows nothing and gets things wrong. I am the happy monster.”
Her employment at the school wasn’t a foregone conclusion, of course. When weighing the decision about whether someone with Down Syndrome, a genetic condition that affects a person’s physical and intellectual growth, the entire community got involved. Even the mayor had an opinion. Ultimately, it was decided that there was no reason she couldn’t teach early reading, and Noelia was hired as a reading assistant in 2012.
It’s clear that her condition is no impediment to her ability to teach young students, and her fellow staff are in full support. “The way the children accept her, incorporating her naturally into the school – there is a lesson in life there for us all,” says Susan Zerdan, the current director of the school.
There are a handful of people with Down Syndrome teaching around the world, but this is the first example in Argentina, and perhaps the first in Latin America. If Noelia’s experience is any indication, she won’t be the last.
“I always feel good with the children. Their parents love me and the other teachers and principals I have had are wonderful,” she says.