A special needs teacher with a difference <br /> <br /> <br /> <br /> <br />
&lt;br /&gt;

She's an exceptional needs coordinator at Liberty Academy, managing director of Eduphase Tutoring, as well as the executive director for Special Needs Awareness Programmes (SNAP), a programme aimed at raising awareness about the Jamaican special needs community through the hosting of events.

Twenty-seven-year-old Toni-Ann Tucker said she was raised to believe that her life and purpose were predestined by God, and as such she has made it her mission to serve others.

“Even though I am a teacher of students with special needs, I still felt as though there was so much more to be done to help families and individuals with special needs function in society,” Tucker told All Woman.

“Teaching them, getting to understand each one, and knowing that they are each very precious; supporting their development, that's what brings me pure joy,”

Originally from St Ann, Tucker's mother enrolled her at the Mico Teachers' College to study special education following her high school education.

After just one day in the programme, she realised she had found her calling, just like her mother, a teacher.

“I can remember growing up there was always a student living with us. My mother's lessons went far beyond the classroom and her concern wasn't about her students passing exams, it was about ensuring that they became strong, confident, successful citizens in the Jamaican society,” she said.

Convinced that even with teaching she was not doing enough, Tucker started SNAP, teaming up with other young women and men who were equally passionate about raising awareness on matters pertaining to the special needs community.

Then there is Eduphase, designed to provide assistance and support to students to aid school performance.

SNAP recently hosted one of Jamaica's first autism-friendly movies with the help of Palace Amusement.

“Sensory-friendly movies have been showing in the United States since 2007. Many families are unable to take their children with special needs to the movies because they are likely to get excited and sing, dance and shout which conflicts with the silence rule,” Tucker said.

For the execution of the SNAP's first project, Palace Amusement made special accommodations for its audience which included no advertisements, more lights, lowering the volume, and allowing for singing and dancing.

The children all had a blast.

Meantime, Tucker, one of the youngest members of staff at Liberty, continues to work closely with students who have a range of disabilities.

It's her life's work, and she would have it no other way.

By NICOLE NATION

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