Special Education Teacher Recognized for Giving Students Gift of Sight

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Photo courtesy Pete Spitler/Herald Tribune

Photo courtesy Pete Spitler/Randolph County Herald Tribune

Every child Rosie Tindall teaches becomes an extension of her family. After nearly 40 years of teaching, there’s no shortage of stories to tell about the impact she’s made both inside her classroom and around the community. For the last 33 years, Rosie has taught at Chester Grade School in Chester, Illinois. There she works with 5th- through 8th-graders who’ve been diagnosed with various cognitive disabilities–such as autism and Down syndrome–that require specialized attention.

Rosie was nominated for our Gift of Sight teacher contest by Beth Wingerter, her sister who also taught alongside Rosie for a few years. Beth says what makes Rosie such an incredible teacher is not only the work she does inside the classroom, but how she connects her students to the community and shows them how to give back.

“Chester is a real small town. You blink and you go through it. But everyone here knows Rosie,” says Beth. “She’s deeply connected to the community and plays a vital role in all our lives.”

As modest as she is inspiring, Rosie says that she’s just doing her job.

“As teachers, we have a big influence on our kids and I want to be a good steward of that. Their parents are trusting me,” Rosie says. “It’s important for me to teach the kids how to treat each other and how to bring up the community.”

Beyond the daily classroom lessons, Rosie goes above and beyond to show her students how to show kindness to others. Once a month, the local food pantry brings a truck full of food to the school and Rosie’s class helps hand out bags of food to people in need. Rosie also created a coffee cart business that her students operate. Every Friday they take orders from other teachers, then make and deliver coffee, tea, or hot chocolate, and handle the cash payments. Proceeds from the coffee cart help with supplies, then students vote on how to spend the remaining profits. Usually the students decide to donate the money to the food pantry or to another local organization. In addition to giving back to the community, running the coffee cart helps teach the students valuable skills, like customer service and how to handle money.

Photo courtesy Pete Spitler/Herald Tribune

Photo courtesy Pete Spitler/Randolph County Herald Tribune

“Lots of students, but particularly kids in special education, are the object of bullying and sometimes they’re seen so much differently than the other kids,” Rosie says. “I want my kids to be closely involved in the school and in the community so that others can see how special they are, and so that they can see it for themselves.”

This is just a small testament to the dedication and love that Rosie has for her students, says Tim Lochhead, principal at Chester Grade School.

“Rosie is an incredible gift to this school. She never quits on anything when it comes to her kids,” he says. “Nothing can stop her; not even cancer.”

In 2010 at the age of 50, the mother of four was diagnosed with stage three lymphoma.

“Here I am working out and eating healthy. Then suddenly I’m told I have cancer from my hips to my neck,” Rosie recalls.

Rosie fought hard to beat cancer. She didn’t tell many people what she was battling, and wouldn’t allow it to get in the way of her teaching. When she began to lose her hair from chemotherapy, Rosie bought a wig that looked exactly like her own hair and her students never knew. Six months later and halfway through her treatment, Rosie received a clean bill of health.

“That really was a special time in my life. I know, who says that about cancer? But there was far more good that came of it than bad,” Rosie says. “That changed my perspective on life. That’s when my world became clearer.”

Today Rosie is in remission and continues to inspire her students and all who know her. Her relentless, others-focus is why we chose Rosie as the winner of the Gift of Sight teacher contest. As the winner, Rosie will receive a pair of designer sunglasses and a Gift of Sight individual vision insurance plan from VSP Vision Care to give to someone in need. VSP is also giving her school 100 gift certificates to provide an eye exam and glasses to students who need them most.

Congratulations, Rosie. The world is better because of teachers like you.

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