8-year-old girl bonds with her special education teacher over their shared limb difference, “Whenever I see her, I feel like a celebrity”
The 8-year-old girl, who has a limb difference, was amazed to see that her special education teacher was apparently waving at her with what she calls her left “nubbin.” The educator then gifted the second-grader an adaptive bike so her love of sports is passed on to her and even shared a picture with the girl on her social media account. Apart from teaching, the educator is a para triathlete who is working towards qualifying for the 2024 Paralympics.
“I’m happy to see her because I thought there was nobody else that had a nubbin at my school,” said the 8-year-old girl from Washington, Raegan Justesen, according to Good Morning America.
Recalling the priceless moment, the special education teacher, Leah Kaplan, reportedly said, “She saw that I had a little arm before I even got the chance to see her and she pulled out her little arm in the hallway and she literally was like, ‘Oh my gosh!’ and she’s like ‘Look!’
Raegan’s mother, Joni Justesen, and her grandmother both work at the same school and they told Kaplan how happy it made their little girl when she met her.
“They told me she went home that night and just could not stop talking about it, how there’s a teacher here with one arm,” shared Kaplan. “I was like, well that makes me really happy and whenever I see her, I feel like a celebrity. She always makes a point of saying hi.”
“I just thought, ‘You know what, I want her to get into sports when she gets older and I want her to have a mentor because they said she has never been in a community with people with disabilities,'” noted Kaplan, who herself was inspired by a teacher who participated in triathlons on the weekends.
Apart from teaching, Kaplan is a para triathlete who is working towards qualifying for the 2024 Paralympics in Paris. Sharing the details of her first triathlon, she said, “As an adult, I was thinking, ‘Why not do one now? There’s an Ironman that’s local.
I might as well just sign up for it even though I have no training, I have no bike.’ I said, ‘I’m gonna do this. I want to do something like this.’ So I applied and I raced as a challenged athlete and I came in first place,” she said.
Kaplan who came to the U.S. from China after being adopted when she was 6 knows just how important representation is.
“I know what it’s like as a kid to just suffer in silence, to feel so alone, and look at so many beautiful people online and just not feeling good enough …
You don’t have to look the part. You can still achieve whatever you want,” said Kaplan who plans on helping Raegan, who loves running and swimming, to get into triathlons.
“I really like doing sports. It’s really fun. And like, when I go to practice in cross country, I’m just like, ‘Yes!'” expressed the little girl, who “really” had “fun” riding her customized bike presented by her teacher as it has all three gears and brakes on the right-hand side.