Making a Difference

Chris Laskowski may seem like your typical gym teacher. A former high school athlete who is now teaching what he loves. Yet unlike most teachers, Chris was born deaf. He suffers from hereditary deafness, a disorder that affects around 4,000 infants each year. Both of his parents can hear, but Chris was born deaf due to a genetic mutation. Despite the challenges this brought, Chris set his mind to becoming a teacher after a conversation with a former football teammate.

“He gave me some of the best advice ever,” said Chris. “He asked me what my hobby is and I said ‘I love sports’. He said I should use that as my major and my job because I will never get bored of it.”

Chris accepted a position at Fry Elementary School in 2001 teaching physical education to kindergarten through fifth grade. He prides himself in keeping every student involved and active in class. This is a belief that stems from the exclusion Chris suffered growing up as a deaf athlete.

“My high school coach told me that I couldn’t play certain positions because I was deaf, and that really hurt,” said Chris. ” I made a commitment to teach kids that it doesn’t matter the disability you have and that they are capable of doing anything within their maximum ability.”

“He makes sure everything is fair and makes sure everyone is included,” said third grade student Natalie Fair. ” If we don’t understand something we can feel open just to ask him.”

In 2004, Chris made a life-changing decision to receive a cochlear implant. Sometimes called a bionic ear, this electronic device allowed Chris to hear things he never could that many might take for granted.

“I love drinking Coke, even though I’m a P.E. teacher,” laughed Chris. “When you pop it open and pour it out you hear that sizzling sound. I never heard that before a cochlear implant and I can hear that now.”

Hearing sounds he never could before was a joyful moment for Chris, but his biggest reward still comes from teaching.

“The best thing I can be, the best role model, is a teacher,” said Chris. ” It doesn’t matter if you are deaf, hearing, or whatever. If a kid is able to respect you and learn from you then you did your job.”

Chris says that right now there is nothing he would rather be doing than teaching, but down the road he hopes to become a coach and someday possibly move into an administrative position.

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