Speaker has inspirational story to tell at Gateway fair
Share with others:
Peter Riffle says his popularity as a motivational speaker isn't only because he has taught students with disabilities for 40 years.
He also has "lived it for 65," he said.
Mr. Riffle, who has several learning disabilities, speaks to teachers, administrators and students all over the country, and on Wednesday, he will speak to special education students during Gateway School District's third annual Transition Fair.
He wrote a book, "The Cloud Chaser," about his experience as a teacher who has spelling, reading, comprehension and word pronunciation difficulties.
He said he plans to emphasize to students that "there are no IEPs in the real world," referring to the individualized education programs that schools compile for students who have special needs or who are gifted.
Everyone -- even students without disabilities -- struggles sometimes, Mr. Riffle said.
"Everybody has strengths and weaknesses," he said. But when you have a learning disability, "all you can see is your own world where you feel inferior."
Mr. Riffle, who has won state and national teaching awards, said he was successful when he focused on what he could do -- teach students who have special needs.
"My strength is working with these children, not English and spelling," he said.
He said he plans to tell the students that they "shouldn't focus on what they can't do. Focus on what you can do."
When students are hired to do a job, they have to do it well, he said.
"You could be the nicest person in the world ... but if you can't do your job, you won't be there long," he said.
"I'm not doing this to be mean. I'm telling them, that's the way life is."
Mr. Riffle will speak to Gateway students from 1 to 2 p.m. Wednesday and will be available to talk to students and their parents during the Transition Fair that evening.
The fair, which is free and open to the public, will be held from 6 to 8 p.m. Wednesday in the library at Gateway High School. Special education students from seventh grade through age 21 are encouraged to attend.
Sue Matcuk, Gateway's transition coordinator, said the district hopes to draw 80 families to the fair this year. About 20 community and Allegheny County agencies will be on hand to offer advice to special needs students on making the transition from high school to adult life.
In addition, 14 college representatives will be at the fair.
"We're excited about that piece of the fair this year," Ms. Matcuk said.
First Published April 5, 2012 4:49 am