When Noelia Garella was a little girl, her parents had to fight to get her into school. Born with Down syndrome, Garella was regarded as a “monster” by nursery school teachers who refused to admit her into their classrooms. Now 31, Garella just became Argentina’s first teacher with Down syndrome, joining an elite group of teachers around the world who are proving that optimism and determination can break down even the toughest stereotypes.
Garella told the news organization Metro that from a very young age she knew she wanted to be a teacher. “I adore this. Ever since I was little, I have always wanted to be a teacher, because I like children so much,” Garella said.
Fortunately, Garella’s parents did not relent when their daughter was rejected from nursery school. They found a way to get their daughter an education and fought by her side as some tried to block her from taking classes to become a teacher.
One person in particular, who was described in the Metro story as someone “in a position of responsibility,” objected to Garella’s hiring as a nursery school teacher. But fellow teachers, parents and even the Cordoba city mayor offered their support. According to her colleagues, it was her determination to be a teacher that inspired them to get behind her cause.
“We very quickly realized that she had a strong vocation. She gave what the children in the nursery classes most appreciate, which is love,” said Alejandra Senestrari, the former director of the school where Garella now works.
Garella has joined a small group of teachers who have Down syndrome, including Bryann Burgess who graduated from the University of South Carolina in 2012 and is now a Kindermusik teacher. And Garella is the first to do so in a Latin American country, where public stereotypes about Down syndrome have made it difficult for people with the condition to even receive an education much less be responsible for providing it.
Garella’s preschool students love her not so much for her determination, but for her kindness and love. They listen with rapt attention while she reads to them and follow her lead as she acts out the story.
“I want them to read and listen, because in society people have to listen to one another,” Garella said.