Thursday, December 20, 2012


This is Tony and Manzi
Tony graduated from high school June 2012 and started work with me right away. 

He has really been wonderful to work with. 

Tony has been accepted to university and will be starting in January. 

It is sad to see him go but he is moving on to bigger and better things. 
I thank God I get a chance to see my TAs grow. 

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Special Education

I was walking through the school today. I saw all these students with special needs in classes, in therapy, playing with friends, smiling, laughing, having fun...I saw teachers teaching them and including them into the lesson.

Then out of the corner of my eye, one student got away and ran up to me and gave me a big hug.

I stood there holding this little girl with down syndrome in my arms and thought to myself...

I love special education.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Bug Bite

Roy got a mosquito bite today and it was very itchy so we put a bandaid on it.
Just as I finished Roy turns to me and says, "Thank you very much Tr. Maddy."
He was very serious and very thankful. 
It made my day.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012


Most of my TAs did not know how to play Twister so I look all around town for the game and then taught them :)
It was so fun!

They had never played anything like it before :)

Friday, November 30, 2012


This is a Sparfle.
It is a cross between a chicken and a duck. 
He has orange legs, feet, eyes and beak. 

And he waddles when he runs. It is so funny. 

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving

Can you tell what was in here....?
My Australian housemates asked me what we have for Thanksgiving in American and I said a few things but not thinking it was possible to make any of it. 

When I came home from work they had figured out a way to make pumpkin pie. 

That's Australian housemates made me pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving.

Among many other things, this year I am thankful for Liz and Joel. 

Monday, November 19, 2012

Nyungwe Forest

I needed a break from city life, so I went to the forest on the West side of Rwanda.

This is what I saw when I hiked up the to top of a hill
Rwanda is known as the land of a thousand hills

This was the view from the bottom

These trees were huge! 

It was a nice break and now back to busy life in the city. 

Wednesday, November 14, 2012


Agama Lizard

We call this a push up lizard because to impress the ladies it looks like he does push ups. 

Friday, November 9, 2012


This was one of my students. His name was Andrew. 

Andrew was in 8th grade and loved to be in school. 

Last week Andrew had a seizure and was not able to recover. He passed away on Monday. 

It is hard for his family and has been hard for my TAs. Please keep them in your prayers. 

Friday, November 2, 2012


Most Rwandans do not believe I ride moto taxis but I do.

Look, that's me, the white girl (muzungu). 

Motos are my way of getting from one place to another. 

Monday, October 29, 2012


We had another parent support meeting. 

Parents shared their experiences with each other. Then I shared what it is like to be a student. 

I asked what else they wanted to talk about in other meetings and unanimously they said they wanted to know how we can expand the program throughout all of Rwanda! 

They said there are so many other kids with special needs that do not go to school and they want to know who we can get them into school. 

I almost could not believe my ears; I was so excited. 

Our next meeting will be brainstorming different ideas to spread special education throughout all of Rwanda. 

Friday, October 26, 2012

Calling Colleges

Cassandra found colleges with her major (special education) and spend time calling them to make sure they fit other requirements like accept international students, offering financial aid, on campus jobs, student housing....

But first she had to learn how to use a phone... All she knows is a cell phone not a 'house phone' (like on with a dial tone). She had only seen it in the movies. 
After she got the phone down, she was a bit nervous to start calling so we made a quick call to my mom for practice:) Thanks Mom! 

Then she was ready...
4 hours later and 15 phone calls she got a lot of information; some good and some not so good. She still has more calls to make to find her perfect college. 

Saturday, October 20, 2012

You Become...

I joke around with my TAs saying, 'You become your student.' 

Influential teachers are the ones that can get on the students level and can put themselves in their students' shoes. If a teacher can do that, the student understands, learns, and grows much faster. 

My TAs spend a lot of time with their students and with time (and training) they become influential teachers. It is great! The student starts to learn and grow more than the TA expected, and parents and teachers are excited. 

After spending a lot of time with someone you tend to start acting similarly to the person. The student starts developing traits like the TA and....

...the TA develops traits like the student: (look closely at the picture, see similarities?) Manzi is the student and he is reading and writing in English. Tony is the TA and he did not bit his nails before he started teaching Manzi. 

It is a small price to pay to be an influential teacher :)

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Animal Therapy

Bella is great therapy for my students. 

I have kids talking, going to the bathroom, reading, being responsible, eating, following 2 step directions and sitting still, all because of this little animal. 

Someone asked me how I trained Bella to be a therapy animal. 
I said: start when they are young, hand feed, have routines, one food is a treat, bring everywhere you go, poke and pull at them....

Then I realized I don't know what it takes to train a therapy animal...all I did was pray and ask God that Bella would be great for my students. 

I am thankful God created Bella perfect for me and my kids.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

I admire my TAs

Every day I look into the faces of each one of my TAs. They walk into my office tired, sad, hungry and look into my face, smile and say they are just fine. When I know deep down inside they are hurting.

They are the head of their house, they are only 20 years old but they are the only ones with a job so they are required to put their brothers and sisters through school and feed their family.

Often they do without eating so their younger siblings can have food to eat. They walk an hour to work every day and then back home again. Some have stopped going to college so that their brother or sister could go to school. Some sleep 3 to a bed because they do not have enough room in their house for another bed.

And then they sit in my office and act as if nothing is bothering them.

I think to myself, what sacrifices have I had to make in my life? I have never gone without eating or without sleeping. I had a great education. I have all I ever needed and more.

They look at me and tell me they admire me for what I do... What have I done that is greater than what they do every day?

Saturday, September 29, 2012


We work with a group of women that have HIV and teach them how to sew so they can make money to live and support their families. 

They are learning how to make different types of quilts so I decided I would give them some practice...

They are making me a patch work quilt using these fabrics. 
I cannot wait to use my blanket. 

(I love orange)

Monday, September 24, 2012

Dangerous Jobs

1. Fisherman
2. Logger
3. Farmer/rancher
4. Structural construction worker
5. Sanitation worker
6. Airplne pilot
7. Roofer
8. Coal miner
9. Merchant mariner
10. Miller

Special Education Teacher might not be one of the top ten most dangerous jobs but it might be close.

I love being a special education teacher. It has its ups and downs and occasionally it gets below 'down'. Everyone has bad days but when a child who already has heightened emotions has a bad day, as a special education teacher, you need to pay extra attention to their reactions.  

After some screaming, tears, spitting, things flying through the air and a change of classroom, energy was released and the student was able to talk again. 

It was a little rough in the middle but by the end of the day we were all smiles again. 

Monday, September 17, 2012

Transfer of Knowledge

A few students are learning phonics to help them become better readers. 
Erica learned digraphs today: sh, th, ch, ck. 

Then in science she was taking notes and wrote the word 'Earth'. 
She then called the teacher over and said, 'Look at that digraph in that word, 'th'.'

The ability to take what you learned in one class and use it in another tells a teacher you really do understand! 

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Secondary Room

We got a room in the secondary! 
The room is divided up into 5 different areas so 5 students can be learning at the same time. 
 Phonics and English Area

 Math and Phonics Area

Novel Area

And there is a Study Hall Area too

Currently we have 5 students in secondary but I am sure that will grow in no time. 

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

TAs Learning

This weeks workshop was all about 'Real Life Situations'. 

I took real life situations between students and myself that have happened over the years and wrote them down. The TAs were divided into groups and had to read the situation, act it out and then discuss what is the best way of responding.

For Example: The student you are working with refuses to do any work. 
 For Example: Another student makes fun of a student with special needs. 
 For Example: The student you are working with bits you. 
 For Example: Yesterday the student could count 1-10 but today they cannot recognize 1. 

The Conclusion: Yes there are solutions to these situations but each student is different and requires the teacher to go about it differently.

They Got It! YES! That is Special Education! 
Things change, kids are different - which means you, yourself should change and be different with each kid according to who they are.

Saturday, September 8, 2012


Meet Colby, she is my dog.
A friend of mine was moving back to the US but she could not take her dog with her so I said I would adopt the dog. 

Colby is about 5 years old but has a lot of energy. She loves to run, not very good at fetch but she might get the hang of it one day...

It is nice to have someone run up and greet me when I get home from school :) 

Tuesday, September 4, 2012


A few of my TAs were in a play. 

Brian is in the suite and Cassandra is kneeling. 

 George is the one in the striped shirt. 

The play was about people being more alike than different so we should humble ourselves be good to everyone. 
The only difference is our similarities. 

Monday, August 27, 2012

A Lunch

I got to go out with some teachers and staff for lunch. 
It was nice to get to know people outside of the school setting. 

Yeah we all work together but to have time to actually get to know each other was kind of nice. 

Monday, August 20, 2012


Jackson left for university in Connecticut a month and a half ago. 

Nancy (on left) left for university in Texas a week ago. 
Rina (in middle) is leaving for university in Philly today!   

Teta was accepted to a school right outside Kigali and she started this week. 
George is waiting to hear back from a university in PA but for the mean time is going to attend a school in Kigali. 
Tracy is starting her second term at university in Kenya. 

All of my TAs are growing up right before my eyes.  

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

New School Year

This was the Second First Day of School in Rwanda. I felt a little more prepared and a little less frantic this time around but still had some butterflies in my stomach.

I started this school year with 7 old TAs, 6 new TAs and of course Bella. 
Patrick, Kudra, Amos, Brian, Allen, Tony
Solomon, Keza, Diana, Vicky, Anah, Cassandra
Antoinette, Bella, and Me

After some training, games, talks and singing...They were definitely ready to start. 
Today went great and now it is for sure, they will make a great team. 
Can't you tell :) 

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Professional Development

All of the administration at Green Hills left the busy city of Kigali. We drove about 3 hour up into the mountains.
It was beautiful! 

We drove up into the mountains to learn more about teaching and education. We have speakers from Canada come talk to us. 
To us teachers this was a great opportunity. 

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Refugee Camp

Because of the unrest in Congo many people are fleeing.

Some are coming to a refugee camp on the boarder of Congo and Rwanda.
The little white roofs are only one wing of the camp.

There are over 20,000 refugees living here.

Men, women and children fleeing for their lives, unsure of what is in store for them next. Please pray they have hope and for a better future.  

Friday, August 3, 2012

Spring Cleaning

As a special education teacher you use a lot of materials to teach, especially when you teach all levels. 
It might not be spring but my office really needed to be cleaned! 

Anah and Cassandra came to help and now look at the office...

The materials are ready for the school year...Now I have to get ready. 

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

To Rwanda

Time well spent in the US:
- Family
- Friends
- Sleep
- Chicago
- Zoo
- Horseback Riding
- Batman
It is always hard to leave Chicago but it will be nice to go back to a regular routine and seeing everyone in Rwanda.

Until next time Chicago....See you on Skype

Tuesday, July 17, 2012


I love my brother and sister! 

Mallory and Me

Mason and Me

We had lots of fun.

Saturday, July 14, 2012


My family from Alaska came to visit. 

This is Lexi. She is 2.

She is getting really good at the Maddy face :D

Monday, July 9, 2012


While I am in that States, Isabella is watching Bella. 
They are getting a long great! 

Friday, June 29, 2012


Elim is a school who serve people with special needs. They have allowed me to come to their school and learn from the teachers, staff and students. 

I have learned different ways to 
 adapt books 

make schedules

allow independence

It has been a great experience. I am very thankful to Elim for allowing me this opportunity. 

Friday, June 22, 2012

Back to Chicago

I flew home to Chicago this week.

After a year of non-stop going. It is nice to sit back and watch the beautiful city walk by. 

I will be home for one month. 

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Teacher Assistants

To celebrate the end of the year my TAs and I had a little party. 

Brian, Allen, Solomon, George
Nancy, Teta, Anah, Rina
Cassandra, Keza, Diana, Me, Doreen
Missing: Tracy and Bella 

With some going to college and some getting other jobs, next year is going to look a little different but these TA have paved the way! I will miss this team but excited to see what will be in store next year. 

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Apology Accepted

One of my students got very upset and I could not figure out why. After about a half hour of talking loudly and some tears, I was finally able to understand.

When I talking she heard me say she would go first, when I really said she was not going to go first. She could not tell me why she was upset or what she heard but after talking for a while, it all came together.

Once I figured it out, I was able to apologized for saying and doing the wrong thing.

She accepted my apology and we continued to class.

With the territory of being a special education teacher you must be willing to apologize.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Cross Cultural Training

3 of my Teacher Assistants are going to America for college.

I put on a workshop about American culture.

- fast pace
- things are readily available
- nod head to indicate 'yes'
- time is money

We went over American values, greetings, surroundings, sayings, and more. The US is very different form Rwanda but I think they will do great.

Rina is going to Haverford, Pennsylvania 

 Jackson is going to New London, Connecticut

Nancy is going to Abilene, Texas 

If you live close to any of those places and you are interested in mentoring, helping, befriending or taking out one of my TA's to lunch please let me know.