The first day of school can come with all kinds of emotions. For 22-year-old Makenna Rowe, it’s a lot of nerves and anticipation for her first year as a 7th grade math teacher at Elkhorn Middle School. Her mom is also a teacher, and Makenna knew she wanted to follow in her mom’s footsteps. But, the path to this point in her career hasn’t been easy. Her life changed in April, when she sustained an anoxic brain injury as the result of a cardiac arrest.
“I don’t remember anything that happened, but apparently I pulled over on the side of the road because I didn’t feel well, and they had to use an AED (automated external defibrillator) on me,” she said. “I spent about a week on life rest [sic].”
Makenna came to Madonna Rehabilitation Hospitals’ specialized brain injury program, where she spent a month recovering from her brain trauma and letting her heart heal. She then began outpatient therapy, working toward her goal of getting strong enough to return to the classroom, with Madonna’s work re-entry program.
Enter 14-year-old Molly Hughes, who is also in outpatient therapy after having surgery to remove a pilocytic astrocytoma brain tumor last year. In addition to traditional physical, occupational and speech therapies, Molly also utilizes Madonna’s Therapeutic Learning Center (TLC) to help her stay up to speed on her classwork and get one-on-one teacher interaction.
TLC Teacher Ashley Steinacher saw an opportunity for both Makenna and Molly to brush up on their skills ahead of the new school year. She scheduled them for a joint therapy session, which not only allowed Molly to prep for a return to her coursework, it also offered Makenna a chance to prep for teaching in a real-world setting. The pair worked on algebra, admittedly not Molly’s favorite subject, but she says Makenna made it easier to understand.
“We saw both girls applying skills that we've worked on throughout the summer,” Steinacher said. “Specifically, Molly did a great job asking appropriate questions to clarify understanding of processes and independent work. It's so important to be an advocate for yourself when returning to school. Makenna did an amazing job of adapting her lesson plan as needed with confidence. Things don't always work as planned. Being able to adapt a lesson is vital to student attention and the success of learning goals.”
Makenna says this chance to work with a student and navigate a real algebra lesson helped her confidence going into the first day of school.
“I think it’s awesome that we both got to learn from each other,” Makenna said. “I hope I helped her better understand math.”