I am a newly retired special education teacher embarking on a new journey as an author/artist. This will be my fourth and hopefully final career as I’ve always wanted to be an author/artist but always had imposter syndrome and never had the courage to take this step. Friends have asked me if I was going to continue to teach. I tell them yes, but in a different role, outside of the classroom. I want to teach through my writing. I plan to create stories relating to those with disabilities. I want to express ways that support inclusion in the real world. This will be done through my storytelling.
In the past, I have worked as a heavy equipment operator, landscape designer and special education teacher. I’ve learned to take risks as these have usually led to positive experiences and good life lessons.
Like so many during the Covid pandemic, shut-down, I lost a few friends and family members. The realization that life is too short was to be taken seriously. I joined a small writers’ group to get supportive advice from like-minded people and I began working on my memoir.
I grew up in Salem, Massachusetts, the youngest of eleven children with 7 sisters and 3 brothers. We were a close knit group that always looked out for each other. When I married my husband Tom, he dragged me over the Beverly/Salem bridge, kicking and screaming (we were high school rivals). I’m glad he did as I love the happy home we created. My two adult sons are always close by as are my beautiful grandsons, Gregory and Connor, my models for the elves in Ralph by Himself.
My inspiration for Ralph by Himself came from years of working as a special education teacher. So many of my students struggled to concentrate in noisy classrooms. It was my job to help them to communicate their needs and to find strategies that suited their learning style and work environment. It was also up to me to communicate this to their teachers.
One student, a sophomore, struggled while taking his MCAS test. When he broke down due to testing anxiety and the not so quiet testing room, he came to me for support. I’m happy to report that he aced the test and was awarded the John and Abigail Adams scholarship for having top scores at Beverly High School. For the next few years, I became his advocate as we worked on strategies to communicate with his teachers, in his AP classes, what he needed for accommodations. He graduated with honors and went on to college in Ireland. He’s my proudest achievement. It only seemed fitting to write this book in honor of him and his hard work.
Susan Richardson, Author, Artist, Teacher