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An Educator’s Impact

Profesor Thomas Hehir’s work has helped to change lives, one student at a time

March 11, 2015
Professor Thomas Hehir

Within hours of posting our lead story this week on the release of Professor Tom Hehir’s new book, How Did You Get Here? Students with Disabilities and Their Journeys to Harvard, a parent from Texas reached out, via Facebook, to seek his help.

She shared the story of her adolescent son with multiple learning disabilities attending school in San Antonio, and wondered if she could consult with Hehir to, in her words, “help our son receive the best education.”

It is exactly this type of contact that led Hehir to his latest book, a collection of powerful narratives of students with diverse disabilities who gained admittance to and graduated from Harvard.

In some cases, the subjects of his book reached out to him prior to matriculation because they had heard of his longstanding work and advocacy for students with disabilities, or because they had read one of his past books. Some of the students profiled contacted him when they got here, or enrolled in one of his classes.

Regardless of how they found him, he found their life stories — and the commonalities between them — something worthy to be shared.

When I saw the post from the mom in Texas, I could not help but think of Hehir’s first chapter, “My Mother,” that details the role parents have played in their child’s success. Despite whatever learning obstacle was laid in their child’s path — dyslexia, blindness, deafness, or mental illness — most parents were focused on ensuring that their child would ultimately read, learn, and thrive in school.

Of all of the book’s takeaways, perhaps the most significant to me was this: that all things for children are possible as long as an adult in their life, be it parent or educator, is there to provide guidance, support, and love as it’s needed. Is it possible that the recipe for a child’s academic success could be so simple?

Photo: Professor Thomas Hehir testifying at a hearing about H.R. 4330, the All Students Achieving through Reform Act of 2009, on February 24, 2010.

About the Author

Mary Tamer
Mary Tamer was the senior editor of Usable Knowledge and the Director of Marketing and Communications at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.
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