Determination, a supportive family, dedicated teachers, and a cadre of mentors brought first-year special education teacher Marianna Wells to where she is today.
Orphaned at age two in her native Hungary, Marianna and her three older brothers spent seven years in orphanages before coming to Massachusetts in 1999, when their adoptive parents, Doris and Kevin Wells, welcomed them into a family that already included three sons. Being the only girl among six boys was the least of Marianna’s worries. “I came from Hungary completely illiterate in my first language.”
In third grade, it became evident that Marianna not only would have to master a new language, but must do so while overcoming a learning disability, requiring her to attend English language and special education classes.
“There are so many different rules and so many different words in the English language; I was always so frustrated and confused,” Marianna recalled. “But, with Wilson, the repetition of everything in the program just clicked and I was actually able to read and write. And then I just fell in love with reading. I truly believe it is the single most important thing for a student to know how to do.”
Marianna said the support and encouragement she received from her public school teachers fueled her determination to catch up with her peers academically, and one day become a teacher herself. Among those early educators was Sharon Hehn, who was pursuing WRS Level I Certification at the time. Marianna became Sharon’s practicum student.
After graduating from high school, Marianna double majored in elementary education and sociology at Merrimack College in North Andover, MA, and became the first in her family to earn a bachelor’s degree. In May, Sharon and her husband Joseph, another of Marianna’s influential high school teachers, were among the friends and mentors on hand to help celebrate their former student’s latest achievement – earning a master’s degree in Moderate Disability Pre-K through 8th Grade from Merrimack.
This fall, Marianna began her new job as an eighth-grade special education teacher with the Andover Public School District.
“For me, school was really frustrating and aggravating, and my teachers were honestly the reason I was able to get through it,” Marianna said. “They gave me encouragement and support. They not only taught me to believe in myself, but they supported me throughout the entire experience. Because of their constant support, I know the impact teachers can have on students. I am so excited and eager to make a difference in the lives of my students just as the educators in my life did for me,” she said.
“Marianna is going to be a phenomenal teacher,” said Sharon, now a Wilson Trainer. “She understands the struggles of these kids, and she has the compassion to help them.”
Pictured: Marianna Wells celebrating completion of her master’s degree with Joseph and Sharon Hehn, who were among her high school teachers and mentors.
(This article was originally published in the Fall 2017 issue of The Decoder.)