"To the world you may be one person, but to one person, you may be the world." -Dr. Seuss
My world was born on June 13th, 2018. My daughter, Peyton Rose, arrived six weeks early and weighed a whopping 3 lb. 6 oz. I knew that my journey with my daughter would look a bit different than most, but I could never have dreamt of the impact she would leave on my life and on so many others’ lives.
My sweet, precious Peyton Rose - my spitfire, my little dancer, my ray of sunshine, my miracle - was born with Down syndrome and a congenital heart defect. A few months prior to her birth, I did something I never thought I would do. I resigned from teaching at Friendswood Junior High.
Teaching has always been a passion of mine ever since I walked into my first classroom in San Antonio at the age of 23 in 2010. I started mid-year that school year. It was my first day ever on the job, and I brought with me a small box of items, as well as a deer-in-the-headlights look that I was able to mask with a smile. I knew right away that junior high was the right fit for me. Not only do junior high students have a sense of humor, but they know how to wipe their noses.
Fate and Lady Luck brought me home to Friendswood in 2013 to the schools and the community where I myself learned and grew and graduated so many years ago. This community has felt like home my whole life, both as a student and now as a teacher. That is why it was so difficult to make the decision to resign whenever I learned of the medical challenges my daughter would be facing so early in her life.
With unfathomable fortitude and bravery, Peyton faced her first, but not her last, open-heart surgery when she was just three months old. My husband and I were strong, but beside ourselves in anxiety and fear at the thought of what our baby girl was facing.
As we were waiting in anticipation in the waiting room at the hospital, words cannot describe the outpouring of support I began to see from my former FJH community. Even though I was no longer a teacher there, I was receiving pictures of how so many at FJH were wearing pink that day in support of Peyton - nothing short of a true testament of the supportive and loving spirit that is pervasive here in Friendswood. That gesture carried us through that stressful but successful day, and will always hold a special place in our hearts.
Once Peyton grew a couple of years, prevailed beyond her medical complications, and became more independent, I was blessed and lucky enough to be able to re-apply and join my Friendswood Junior High community in 2020 once again in my same grade and subject. Today, Peyton is blessed to be part of the FISD community at Westwood Elementary, where she is receiving invaluable education, love, and care that are helping her continue to blossom and thrive.
My hope is to give as much as I have received from the Friendswood community. My daughter has made such an impact on my life, and she continues to inspire me to make an impact on every student I am blessed to teach. Peyton has helped me shape my mission to spread kindness, love, and acceptance inside and outside of the classroom.
-Jackie McNeel, FJH ELA Teacher