As teachers, we are consistently challenged with meeting the needs of all our students. While we routinely refine our teaching practices and learn about our students, one thing which teachers universally recognize is the notion that everyone learns differently. One of the most rewarding things is witnessing students overcome challenges, especially those who may have a particular disability which affects the learning process.
Having students learn about the Iditarod opens up a tremendous opportunity to teach about mushers who have had to overcome obstacles! For example, Cindy Abbott is someone who grew up with a learning disability, went on to become a college professor, finished the Iditarod twice, and even reached the summit of Mt. Everest! Cindy was diagnosed with Wegener’s Granulomatosis, a rare disease which affects the blood vessels in the body. As a result of this disease, Cindy has also suffered permanent vision loss in one of her eyes. Despite experiencing various obstacles, Cindy pushes forward by following her motto of “taking 10 feet at a time.”
The Iditarod is both a mentally and physically enduring challenge. Cindy’s story of perseverance is just one of many. You could look at Dee Dee Jonrowe, who battled breast cancer, Charley Bejna, who manages his Type 1 Diabetes on the trail, or Rachael Scdoris, who is legally blind and finished the Iditarod twice.
October is a month in which many people across the country raise awareness for those who have disabilities. Use this Iditarod vocabulary lesson, which integrates American Sign Language fingerspelling, in order to help students value and recognize ASL as a form of communication. Students will have fun, learn about ASL, and strengthen their understanding of common Iditarod vocabulary terms.