Utica Elementary recognized Disability Awareness Month by welcoming guest speaker, Heather Stengel, on March 16th. Heather is a 2007 graduate of Jeffersonville High School and scheduled to graduate in May from Ivy Tech Community College with a degree in Early Childhood Education. She is currently completing her practicum in student teaching with Mrs. Angie McEwen, preschool teacher at Riverside Elementary.
Heather was born with a condition termed Cloacal Exstrophy. Because of her condition, she has had numerous surgeries, illnesses and hospitalizations. This condition also affected her ability to walk and she must rely on a wheelchair for mobility. Heather has never let her condition bring her down. She has always been active and participated in multiple sports using her wheelchair when she was younger such as cheerleading, basketball and tennis. Heather found her love for dancing when she was just 6 years old. She asked if she could join a special dance group called the Miracle Dancers at Diane Moore Dance Academy after seeing them perform on the Crusade for Children Telethon. These dancers have a variety of special needs and are able to express themselves through dance. Heather is now not only a dancer, but also an assistant teacher in some of the dance classes. She spoke to Utica Elementary students about her experience dancing and what it means to her to be part of the Miracle Dancers.