I Can Still Sing

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Cinda Wert Rapp’s spirit wasn’t crushed by a devastating childhood injury, and her experience informed her long career as a teacher.

When I was eight , I fell and was paralyzed from the neck down. After a month in the hospital, I was sent home with my 26-year-old parents, four siblings and the prediction, “She’ll never walk again.”

On the first Friday, I realized that it was church choir practice and started to panic. I had had an excuse to miss choir when I was in the hospital, but now that I was home I had no reason not to be at rehearsal.

I started nagging my pregnant mother, “I have to go to choir!”

With a quiet voice that I’m sure reflected her fear of our new life, she explained, “But you can’t get down the two flights to the car. You can’t walk into the church. You can’t climb the three flights to the choir loft. And even if you got there, you can’t sit in the chair by yourself.”


My simple answer was, “But Mom, I can still sing.”

She hailed a man off the street to carry me to the car and tie me to the seat with a sheet. A custodian carried me up to the choir loft. The astonished choir director watched as Mom tied the sheet around me and the chair. When she finished, she looked at him and explained, “She can still sing.”

I then went on to school and worked as a teacher for 42 years, seeking to help students who have multiple disabilities find their voice. What was their “I can still sing”?

Students are returning to school this month. Teachers stand in front of every one of those classrooms. Each has a profound, incredible job. The problems facing our youth every day are enormous. Students don’t have to be disabled to struggle to find their voice. Some have struggled to come here. All struggle to overcome pressures. Yet, every teacher, no matter if she works with the privileged or the forgotten, strives to bring out the interests, passions and overcome the problems of youth to help each student grow and learn.

I salute and appreciate all teachers who do this amazing, wonderful work every day.

With a Perspective, this is Cinda Wert Rapp.

Cinda Rapp is a National Board Certified Teacher now working to improve teacher training in the West Contra Costa School District.