Editor’s Note: With our focus on education this month, we wanted to recognize an educator going above and beyond for our children. While we can think of no one more worthy than Linda Henderson, we know there are thousands each day that give their all for their children. The team at Women AdvaNCe salutes you teachers.
When you are born for a purpose, for a reason, it seems nothing life throws at you can stop you. Linda Henderson is a prime example of that. She has been through some extraordinary life events and yet and still, you will see her smiling face every day at Eno Valley Elementary School in Durham, NC. She serves as a preschool special needs teacher in the same classroom she did her student teaching as well as some substitute teaching..
Mrs. Henderson is one of nine children from Bahama, NC. She loved the country so much that she now lives on the land that her great great great grandfather was born a slave. He eventually paid for this land that his owner gave him. She always knew she’d live there. She married young and had her two sons, Marquee and Demario. At the same time she was taking part time education classes and preparing her sons to excel from day one in school.
One unfortunate day in 1996, she was in a horrific car accident. Hit by a diesel truck and another car, she suffered tremendously and was cut out of her car and immediately airlifted to a local hospital. “My brain was trying to jump out of my head. It’s a miracle the car didn’t blow up.” Her family was told it was a miracle she even survived, but not to expect her to be able to do much. She experienced a traumatic brain injury, and had to relearn how to walk, talk, and complete basic self-care skills, such as basic speech, cooking, taking a shower, etc. She forgot special momentous occasions such as the passing over her father.
“There’s a lot I still don’t remember, including very low moments but I never gave up hope.” Her therapists but especially her young sons and family members helped her learn to do all those things again. Keeping journals and calendars helped her remember some very basic things. There was a point during her ordeal and recuperation that was an enormous strain. It momentarily changed her family both emotionally and financially. Yet, her faith never wavered.
As difficult as this moment was, combined with everything else Linda was enduring, throughout the entire tribulation she never questioned why. “I never questioned it. I knew no matter what everything was going to be alright. When I look back on it I realize that if it weren’t for MY accident I would not have been able to take care of my husband when he became ill. Everything worked and still works out the way it does for a reason.”
Her husband became sick in the year 2000. His necessary care became her full time job. School and completing her degree would once again have to wait. Continuing her own therapies and making sure her husband was being well taken care of consumed every second of her day. After her husband passed a way, she eventually went back to substitute teaching after a colleague and family friend forced her out of the house. Ten years later, after finally receiving her doctor’s approval, she went back to school simultaneously receiving three associate degrees from Durham Tech. She then transferred to North Carolina Central University and received her BS in Family and Consumer Sciences.
While completing her undergraduate degree she was diagnosed with a genetic vision disorder that eventually prevented her from driving back and forth to school. She still didn’t let it stop her. Taking advantage of services provided by her school, she relied on public transportation and family to get back and forth to school.
Lynn is a mother first and foremost. Her advice to mothers is “Run now in a positive way so you don’t have to run later in a negative way. Run to the sports events now so you won’t have to run to a jail cell or a gravesite. Stay involved now. Find something for you and your child to run to that is positive.” Her sons are now following in both parents’ footsteps. The oldest, lives in VA and is a professional trainer and assistant wrestling coach. Her youngest son lives in Durham and runs a nonprofit wrestling club for underprivileged children. It is a free wrestling club called >>Pin To Win . Anyone who has a son, who needs something to do over the summer that includes guidance and discipline, is welcomed to participate. Never giving up and education is the family legacy.
“I love teaching. That has always been my goal in life no matter what I was going through. I love these children. I am one of them.”
Mrs. Henderson’s day, like most educators, begins early and ends late because she has several daily responsibilities on top of educating her special need students. Diligently, organizing and preparing her classroom, developing exciting and relevant activities and lessons, communicating and collaborating with coworkers, as well as advocating for the families of each of her students to make sure his/her highest possible educational levels are grasped is all in a day’s work. She also served as her school’s assistant coach this year to the Battle of the Books Team.
The economy and budget of our state has all but forgotten about the importance of the classroom and the necessary tools to ensure early intervention is possible and effective. So, Mrs. Henderson repeatedly takes matters into her own hands. She wants to make sure her students have what they need to make progress. She has successfully received over $8,000 in grant money from various sources such as Donors Choose.
Linda Henderson, is nowhere near complete with her life accomplishments. If you ask her, she’ll tell you that’s what keeps her going. It’s her spirituality, the support of her new husband of 9 years, the unwavering encouragement of her extended family and friends is why she is beginning her journey to achieve her doctorate in the summer of 2017. And, I have a feeling as we have seen…nothing can stop her.