On verge of dream – wanting to teach, give back

Jason Lingard is closing in on his decade-long dream to teach in urban public schools. “Becoming a teacher in an […]

Jason Lingard is closing in on his decade-long dream to teach in urban public schools.

“Becoming a teacher in an urban setting will probably be the happiest day of my life,” said Lingard, a North Minneapolis resident who has been wheelchair-bound with cerebral palsy for most of his life. “I’ve imagined it many times.”

After student teaching and securing a Minnesota teaching license, Lingard will pursue a teaching post, most likely in Minneapolis, St. Paul or surrounding suburbs. He graduated in May with an elementary education degree from Metropolitan State University’s College of Professional Studies. He starts a student teaching assignment in August.

“Jason is an inspiration,” said Rosa Fagundes, his Metropolitan State academic advisor. “He projects resiliency and other positive characteristics. He has a great sense of humor and creativity. He knows how to listen. There is no doubt that Jason is an excellent role model.”

Lingard, 31, had planned to graduate from an Idaho university several years ago. But the institution’s elementary education department required him to complete physical and speech therapy before his senior year student teaching assignment. “They gave me an ultimatum,” said the Boise native. “But I thought it was very discriminatory. I was just being realistic. My disability comes with speech delays and that’s a problem that isn’t going to go away. The only way to deal with it is to do the very best I can. Unfortunately, they wouldn’t give me the benefit of the doubt.” Instead Lingard left school.

He arrived in Minnesota with his wife in 2003. Three years later he enrolled at Metropolitan State, where the Disability Services Office helped him with accommodations including providing him extra test time, note-taking help and other physical assistance.

As part of his Urban Teacher Program studies at Metropolitan State, he assisted urban children improve their reading for a Minneapolis after-school program. He also volunteered as an English as a Second Language (ESL) instructor for Hmong youth at a Minneapolis elementary school.

Lingard identifies with the challenges many inner-city kids confront. “Some people might see urban children from communities of color and automatically label them as having a learning disability because of the lack of opportunities arising from their circumstances,” he said. “With me, some see my wheelchair first and automatically make assumptions about my learning capabilities. It’s been a challenge…so I can relate to them and the difficult challenges they might face, although these challenges might not be the same.”

Lingard is grateful friends and family refused to let him use his disability as a crutch. “Rather than feeling sorry for myself and saying, ‘I can’t do this,’ I like to approach an obstacle and say, ‘I can do this. I may have to do it differently, but I can do it just like anybody else.’”

Lingard has a history of overcoming challenges. He graduated with honors from his Boise high school and sang in the choir. An active camper and downhill skier (he uses a mono-ski, which has a seat mounted atop one wider ski), he joined an organization whose disabled members enjoyed outdoor adventures. Lingard once testified before a U.S. House of Representatives subcommittee in Washington, D.C., advocating that persons with disabilities should have equal access to Idaho wilderness camping areas.

Lingard, who works part-time for the downtown Minneapolis Target Store, said he eagerly awaits an opportunity to teach in front of his first urban classroom. “I’ve always wanted to help others and give back,” he said. “Working with young children is a great place to start. I hope they can benefit from seeing my positive attitude and outlook on life and mold themselves into good people.”

Metropolitan State University, a member of the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system, provides high-quality, affordable education programs for adults seeking baccalaureate, masters and doctoral degrees. It is the only state university in the Twin Cities metropolitan area besides the University of MN.

This article was submitted by Metropolitan State University.