8-Year-Old Girl And Teacher Share Beautiful Bond Over Limb Difference

A teacher and a second-grader are sharing a beautiful bond over a common limb difference.

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Raegan Justesen says she and her teacher have something in common what she calls a ‘nubbin.’

8-year-old Raegan met Ms. Leah Kaplan last month at her elementary school in Spokane, Washington, and immediately noticed the special education teacher waving with her left “nubbin.” Kaplan is a K-3 special education teacher in Washington.

Reagan said she was happy to meet her because she hadn’t met any teacher missing a limb. “I’m happy to see her because I thought there was nobody else that had a nubbin at my school,” Raegan said.

Kaplan recalls their meeting, “She saw that I had a little arm before I even got the chance to see her and she pulled out her little arm in the hallway and she literally was like, ‘(Gasp) Oh my gosh!’ and she’s like ‘Look!’” Kaplan said of the moment they met in the school hallway.

Raegan’s grandmom and her mom, Joni Justesen, who both works at the same school told Kaplan, that when Reagan went home that night, “She just could not stop talking about it, how there’s a teacher here with one arm,” Kaplan said. “I was like, well that makes me really happy and whenever I see her, I feel like a celebrity. She always makes a point of saying hi.”

Kaplan has even taken to Instagram to share pics of the two and that she gifted Raegan with an adaptive bike, in a bid to pass on her love of sports to the young girl. “I just thought, ‘You know what, I want her to get into sports when she gets older and I want her to have a mentor because they said she has never been in a community with people with disabilities,” Kaplan said.

Apart from teaching, Kaplan competes as a para-triathlete aiming to qualify for the 2024 Paralympics in Paris. She was inspired by a teacher who did triathlons on the weekends. “As an adult, I was thinking, ‘Why not do one now? There’s an Ironman that’s local. I might as well just sign up for it even though I have no training, I have no bike,’”

For Kaplan, the para-triathlon world is a community that makes her feel empowered as one who grew up with a limb difference and an adoptee who came to the U.S. from China when she was 6. She knows the value of inclusivity and says, “I know what it’s like as a kid to just suffer in silence, to feel so alone, and look at so many beautiful people online and just not feeling good enough … You don’t have to look the part. You can still achieve whatever you want,” Kaplan said.

Raegan was able to take her new bike for a spin on Sunday and said it was “really fun” to ride a customized bike with 3 gears and brakes on the right-hand side. Kaplan plans to get Reagan started in triathlons this summer, as Reagan loves sports, “I really like doing sports,” Raegan added. “It’s really fun. And like, when I go to practice in cross country, I’m just like, ‘Yes!’”

What a blessing Kaplan is to Reagan’s world, we thank God for placing her at the right place right time in her life to impact her and make her feel a part of a community.

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