Nearly everyone agrees that some of the most important people in a young person’s life are teachers.
A teacher who inspires can be a life-changing force that pushes students to be better, kinder, and smarter. Ramona Gabriela Asan is a Special Education teacher at a school in Petrosani, Romania and has been fostering inclusive environments and mindsets for over 20 years, with support from Special Olympics Romania and the Special Olympics Global Center for Inclusion in Education.
The city of Petrosani lies within the Jiu Valley, is one of Romania’s poorest and most disadvantaged areas, and has suffered years of transition leading to poverty and increased socio-economic issues for the population. Ramona’s school is the largest of the mainstream schools—serving students with and without disabilities—in the Jiu Valley, having established special integrated classes in mainstream education. This is where Ramona’s path to creating a more inclusive world begins.
Early on, Ramona knew that her students with disabilities would not have the same opportunities as their peers, especially in terms of participating in sports and other physical activities. This was a driving force for Ramona’s desire to partner with Special Olympics Romania. In the last year, Special Olympics Romania began an initiative in Ramona’s school to train teachers and other staff to implement Unified Champion Schools, virtual Unified fitness challenges, and Inclusive Youth Leadership trainings in the region. Ramona became one of the leading figures supporting the integration of the entire student body into Unified Sports competitions, encouraging interactions between all students and taking greater steps towards enriching the lives of children with disabilities.
“The Unified Champion School project has been a wonderful opportunity to show everyone that we have made and are still making great strides towards an inclusive school and community.”
She says that this partnership has helped her “take inclusion to the next level” because she was provided with all the necessary expertise and support, including information, textbooks, sports equipment, medals, uniforms, diplomas, and above all, moral support—thanks to Special Olympics Romania, and the Global Center for Inclusion in Education made possible by the generous support of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan. With this support, Ramona knows that regardless of the conditions and problems that have arisen around the world, there is always something to be done.
“I’ve learned that we can adapt to anything, that our own home can be a gym, and that the most important thing is to never give up!"
For Ramona, Special Olympics programming in schools has been a reminder of the beauty of meaningful inclusion for youth, and how people can stay connected and hopeful even when they are apart. According to Ramona, the community’s perceptions of people with disabilities have changed drastically in recent years, largely due to the events and projects held by local Special Olympics teams. Ramona says, “The Unified Champion School project has been a wonderful opportunity to show everyone that we have made and are still making great strides towards an inclusive school and community.”
Ramona believes that being involved in projects such as Special Olympics opens new doors for participants, equips them with important skills, and increases their chances of a better future. The best way to get this message to other schools is to lead by example, showing how important Unified events can be in the lives of students, families, and teachers. Ramona aims to continue spreading the word about the benefits of inclusion and how all can accept the beauty of being different.
With support from His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the Global Center for Inclusion in Education is helping teachers like Ramona drive inclusion in their classrooms and communities. Learn more about Unified Champion Schools and the His Highness’ support to the global expansion of Unified Champion Schools.