Florida special education teacher starts each day with compliments, works to foster acceptance

Photo from Special Books by Special Kids/Facebook

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (WFLA) – A Florida special education teacher is blogging with his students to foster acceptance.

“I have been collaborating with my students and their parents. We are sharing our journey with the intention of erasing social stigmas and showing the true nature of my amazing students,” Mainspring Academy teacher Chris Ulmer writes on Facebook.


The 26-year-old Jacksonville teacher has worked with the same group of students for three years. They’ve been blogging for seven months about their “adventure together,” Ulmer says.

Ulmer reached out to his students’ parents before starting the blog, he says, because he had “reached a boiling point.” “As a special education teacher I have students with a variety of conditions but they all share one common element: They are pure. They represent love and everything that is right in this world,” he explains.

It was society bugging Ulmer. It seemed most people couldn’t see how pure his students were, Ulmer explains. “One parent even told me that their greatest fear was passing away and leaving their child homeless, wandering the streets and being ignored as if they were a ‘light post,’” he added.

That’s when Ulmer and the students started the project. On the blog, they discuss the children’s diagnoses. “These children deserve to be heard, loved and appreciated,” Ulmer says. “The world needs to understand that in many ways, the children have it right. We need to learn from them.”

Ulmer also posts videos to Facebook to allow his students to share their stories. In one video synopsis, he says, “My friend was born without part of his brain. He is also one of my favorite people on earth. Take a moment and learn about his amazing, fascinating and loving brain.”

In the video, the teacher and student sit together, explaining the young boy’s condition, agenesis of corpus callosum, which is an absence of the part of the brain connecting the cerebral hemispheres.

In another video, Ulmer sings “Time to Move On” with a student who likes to “rock out to Tom Petty.”

“My friend had multiple brain hemorrhages as an infant resulting in a traumatic brain injury,” he explains.

In addition to the blog, Ulmer starts each school day uniquely. Before any curriculum-based lessons start, he spends 10 minutes complimenting his students. He told TODAY.com he chooses complements unique to each and every child.

On Thursday Ulmer posted a letter on Facebook. It’s been shared more than 8,000 times. “This is truly an opportunity for us to make a difference in our world together,” Ulmer writes in the letter. “I am shaking as I write this as I understand the potential impact we can have as a team.”

Ulmer asks people to share the letter to help make a difference. Find the letter and his Facebook videos here. Visit the blog here.

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