By Fritz Busch
(The Journal All Access) NEW ULM – A New Ulm resident who dealt with bullying in his younger days, then a flesh-eating disease last year that nearly caused him to lose an arm, continues to help students overcome bullying and learning disabilities.
“I know what it’s like to be bullied,” Chris Gordon said. “Growing up, I was bullied for various reasons including my interest in comics. Many kids I teach online come from situations involving bullying.”
Using Skype and a virtual classroom computer application, Gordon teaches special education to middle school students for the Minnesota Virtual Academy, a tuition-free public school program for K-12 students.
With scars on his arms and back from surgery for necrotizing fasciitis, a rare bacteria skin infection that spreads fast and kills the body’s soft tissue, Gordon said people sometimes look at him differently.
The disease usually occurs through a break in the skin like a cut, scrape, burn, insect bite or puncture wound, according to the Centers for Disease Control. The illness affects less than one person in 100,000 per year. Prevention is good wound care and hand washing.
Gordon turned one of his life’s challenges into positive motivation.
“But what I look like doesn’t define who I am. I just try to be the best person I can be,” Gordon said. “My disease scare last year gave me a new perspective on a lot of things which I plan to use positively.”
Gordon teaches kids with autism and a range of other disabilities. He consults with other teachers on subjects like what’s the best way to work with students with certain disabilities, in order to benefit them.
Working with 22 students online, Gordon said he’s found online school works very well for students with medical issues or those that have struggled with traditional school.
“Online teaching is very beneficial for them,” Gordon said. “I get a great deal of satisfaction helping students grow in an alternative environment.”
When he isn’t teaching online, Gordon meets with students one on one and in small or larger groups. Last week, he spent 2 hours with 14 students on an archery range in Victoria.
Other community events with students he plans to do are ice skating at the former Minneapolis railroad depot and indoor rock climbing in St. Paul.
“I appreciate the opportunities I’ve had to work with students around the state, helping them become more future leaders,” Gordon said. “I’ve found sixth to eighth-grade students a lot of fun to interact with and teach life skills they need.”
Last month, Gordon won the PACER Walk, Run and Roll at Mount Normandale Lake Park in Bloomington, racing nearly four miles in 23 minutes, 55 seconds.
The PACER Center in Minneapolis is a parent training and information center for families of children and youth with all disabilities from birth to adulthood. At PACER, parents can find publications, workshops, and other resources to help make decisions about education, vocational training, employment, and other services for children with disabilities.
A couple weeks ago, Gordon, who has been running and racing for much of his life, finished first in his age group in the Mankato Marathon 10K. He raced 6.2 miles in 38 minutes, 39 seconds, his all-time personal record.
“Do not let anyone tell you a goal is unreachable,” Gordon posted on Facebook. “Keep the faith, put in the time and effort, and be kind to those around you. You can’t control everything that happens to you, but if something knocks you down, get back up.”
For more information, visit www.pacer.org.
Fritz Busch can be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.