Teressa Lee: Happy Hands and Happy Heart
When Teressa Lee left her job of almost 30 years, she was open to the possibilities and dared to dream of the opportunities that lay ahead. As a seasoned professional in her field, she worried that her talents might be overlooked, but that was certainly not the case! She considers herself fortunate to have found a position she loves – at Happy Hands in Tulsa – and wants to share the message that you can land your dream job at any age!
TK: Tell us about yourself.
TL: I was born in Okmulgee and grew up in Liberty Mounds (Hectorville), Oklahoma. I met my husband while attending college in Edmond, and we have two children and two grandboys. My master’s degree is in Special Education and I am currently teaching at Happy Hands, which is a Christian early education center. Our primary focus at Happy Hands Education Center is for all to know Jesus and our mission is “to empower children who are deaf and hard of hearing or have other communicative disorders to flourish.”
TK: What is your favorite inspirational quote?
TL: I love this quote by Helen Keller because it reminds me to have deep and meaningful connections: “The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched. They must be felt with the heart.” Also, Matthew 5:16 is one of my favorite verses: “Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good work and glorify your Father in heaven.”
TK: What sparked your interest in pursuing a career in education?
TL: When I was young, I would go with my Aunt Malinda to events where she worked with special needs adults. I remember wanting to go with her more than allowed because I enjoyed and desired to help the residents. In middle school, I had a wonderful teacher named Mrs. Joanne Cox. She made a difference in my life because she made learning interesting and she really cared about us, which was very inspirational to me. I believe it was God’s calling to be a special education teacher, and I have a sincere commitment to ensure that children are equipped with the foundation of learning.
TK: Why do you think you have found your dream job?
TL: God had blessed me with the opportunity to teach unique and special children in public school for almost 30 years. With God’s timing and a leap of faith, I was again blessed with the opportunity to continue working with unique children, although in a private Christian school. My passion for sign language, following God’s plan for my life, and the desire to see all kids learn is at Happy Hands Education Center!
TK: What advice would you give to others on pursuing their dream job?
TL: Follow your passion and find your purpose in life. Pray and pay attention to the ‘God winks’ that may occur in your life!
TK: Tell us about your job at Happy Hands.
TL: Being an assistant teacher is perfect for me as I consider myself a ‘night light’ and not the ‘chandelier.’ My classroom co-workers and I are a wonderful team and we each have our own God-given talents and skills that mesh together well so we can provide for and meet the individual needs of our children.
TK: How has Happy Hands accommodated during the pandemic?
TL: The pandemic has affected our ability to meet new people and potential new donors. We are now offering virtual ‘See The Story’ tours instead of people actually coming inside the building. Visitors and volunteers are temporarily restricted. We wear masks as we enter and exit the building and in the halls. We received a donation of clear masks to wear as needed to accommodate lip readers. We remain in our own classrooms (like family) and have discontinued gathering as groups or visiting other classrooms.
We very much miss seeing and hugging our parents as staff now walk the children to and from the building instead of parents coming into our classrooms. We all wash our hands a zillion more times throughout the day! Our administration has developed a Pandemic Policy to help keep us safe and healthy.
TK: What makes your classroom/curriculum unique?
TL: Our classroom is a unique setting where children enjoy play-based learning and ‘loose parts,’ which helps them inspire imagination and creativity on their own terms and in their own special way. We encourage and offer natural, sensory, and recycled materials for open-ended learning. Our teacher-child ratio remains small, giving us more availability to assist each child with their different needs and individual goals.
We play outside as much as possible and are so blessed to have our own area right outside our classroom door to play and explore! Our children use a variety of aids and ways to assist them with receptive and expressive language, so in our classroom we accommodate their needs to enhance communication and learning. Verbal skills and sign language are encouraged!
TK: Being a non-profit program, how can individuals help Happy Hands?
TL: Being a non-profit, we depend on donations. We have an ongoing Wish List if anyone would like to donate. Our current needs are: Size 5 diapers, powder-free vinyl gloves, paper towels, copy paper and postage stamps.
TK: What else would you like to mention?
TL: I am incredibly blessed and thankful for all the children I have known through the years. They have taught me many things about life!
To learn more about Happy Hands Education Center, visit www.happyhands.org or call 918.893.4800. Happy Hands will be having their next VIRTUAL “See The Story” tour on January 21. Please contact Nathan Tifft if interested: firstname.lastname@example.org or 918.893.4812.