Wheelchair-bound since her 20s, Tiffany Nickel continues to teach special education in Wichita. Even her disability can’t squelch her passion to teach.
“Every individual will be disabled at some point,” the 2010 Miss Wheelchair Kansas told members of the Kansas Association of Retired School Personnel gathered for their annual convention in Great Bend Thursday afternoon. Even a broken arm counts as a disability and creates hardship.
In her address, she told how she developed desire to teach at an early age, especially those with disabilities. She told how she lost her mother and brother in a car wreck when she was 22. She told how a simple act, like diving into a swimming pool, can change a life. That is how she became paralyzed, just days after starting her first teaching job.
But, “I moved on,” she said. Now she is active in wheelchair sports and organizations that promote the needs of those with special challenges.
The bottom line, she cares, despite all the adversity she’s experienced.
That tied right into the theme for the 59th-annual KARSP Convention, which opened Wednesday and ends today at the Highland Convention Center. The association has about 4,000 members statewide with about 200 present in Great Bend.
“Our theme this year is ‘KARSP ... Caring Counts,’” said Karen Pulaski, past association president and this year’s convention chairperson. It was the brainchild of current KARSP President Russell Branden.
“We care about our members and about potential members,” Pulaski said. But, it doesn’t stop there.
“Since we are retired, we can volunteer a lot,” Pulaski said, adding this is a way of giving back to their communities. They help in hospitals, schools and anywhere they can.
This year, the National Retired Teachers Association and the American Association of Retired Persons presented KARSP with a symbolic check for over $9, representing the over 400,000 volunteer hours members logged this past year.
In existence since 1952, KARSP includes teachers, administrators, classified staff, bus drivers, custodians and secretaries, said Pulaski, a retired secretary from Sedgwick County.
Activities included presentations, meetings, tours of area attractions, an auction to benefit the KARSP Foundation and times to mingle.
This is the seventh year the association has held its convention in Great Bend. They have a contract for two more years at the Highland.