Cathy Jasso is an Illinois-based special education teacher who has been in the field for over four decades. She instills within her students—all of whom face adversity due to their disabilities—the notion that they are of as much value as their peers, that they too are capable of living fulfilling lives.
She does this all out of desire to make a positive impact on the lives of the disadvantaged. Her dedication is evident in the fact that, even at 68 years old, she continues to substitute teach, despite having “retired” years ago.
What Was Cathy Jasso’s First Experience Caring for Children With Disabilities?
In high school, Cathy began volunteering at Misericordia, a well-renowned Chicago-based home for children with intellectual disabilities. Her passion for the field was evident immediately, and soon enough, she became a paid behavioral technician at the home, a job that she worked throughout college.
Speaking on her time at Misericordia, Cathy says, “When I die, that’s gonna be my heaven, as that was my favorite job.”
She describes working with a nursery of six children, whom she cared for in almost every major way, getting them out of bed, bathing them, and even singing for them.
This job was not only the seed that sprouted into her wanting to become a special education teacher, but it was her first major realization that she wanted to be a mother.
How Is Cathy Jasso an Everyday Hero?
Unfortunately, there is not a whole lot of money to be made in teaching. Education is a field that one must enter purely out of passion, and this is something that Cathy undeniably has.
Aside from not being financially rewarding, the job is emotionally taxing, but to Cathy, this is a small price to pay in order to do what she loves. She is an everyday hero because of the financial and mental sacrifices she makes for the good of others.
Cathy believes that anyone has the potential to be a hero. She herself was not born into wealth or with inherent gifts that ensured her success. Instead, she saw injustices in the world and decided to do something about them. Her work is done for the sake of her students alone; it is not an attempt to bolster her reputation or ego.
Her work pays off in that she has made a positive impact on the lives of countless students, as evidenced by the overwhelming support she has received from their parents.
At home, she has a box of letters from grateful parents, many of whom didn’t feel comfortable leaving their children with anyone else until they met Cathy.
What Have Been the Greatest Struggles Cathy Jasso Has Faced Throughout Her Career?
Being a mother of four, Cathy’s life has oftentimes felt like a balancing act, as she had to always be careful not to bring work-related stress home to her children.
Additionally, the recent passing of her husband took a huge toll on her, yet she has managed to remain optimistic, just grateful that he is no longer suffering from his diabetes.
The primary way in which Cathy has dealt with stress in her life—work-related or otherwise—is exercising. Running in particular has not only given Cathy a healthy body, but a healthy mind.
She views running as her “prayer time,” an hour or so in which she can allow her troubles to melt away. When she runs, she thanks God for all the blessings in her life.
“I’m running slow, but I’m not in a race with anybody,” she says.
Cathy Jasso on What People Get Wrong About People With Disabilities
Having spent four decades working with children with disabilities, Cathy has a high opinion of the disenfranchised group. She can’t stand to see the ridicule they endure, especially when it’s at the hands of their peers.
She wishes that people understood that people with disabilities are valuable people, that their neurodivergence makes them unique thinkers who are invaluable to our society.
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To parents of children with disabilities, Cathy recommends joining support groups and asking their children’s schools for resources. Her most important piece of advice, however, is to never treat one’s child as an “other,” as this will instill within them a victim complex.
According to her, children with disabilities should still be treated as normal, as they too are human beings who deserve to feel valued.
Cathy Jasso Is a Hero
Even after her supposedly “retirement,” Cathy immediately began subbing. Teaching students with disabilities is something that she cannot escape, as at this point, it is an inherent part of her.
She is a hero because she sacrifices parts of herself—her time, her finances, sometimes even her emotional wellbeing—to serve people in need. She has made an incalculably positive impact on the world, helping hundreds upon hundreds of students to feel valued and worthy of fulfilling lives.