My name is Mark Chartier, and I am a special education teacher in Pueblo West, Colorado. I have been teaching special education since 2008. My students know me as "Mr. C."
I grew up with Tourette's syndrome. As a child, I exhibited bizarre symptoms that consisted of neck thrusting, facial grimacing, eye blinking, and even barking and screaming. Because of these symptoms, I was ostracized in school. I got in many fistfights, had poor grades, and was suspended from school frequently. In short, I was a teacher's worst nightmare.
No one knew why I did these strange acts until my father took me to a neurologist when I was 18 years old. I was then informed that I had Tourette's syndrome.
I experienced many difficulties academically, socially, and behaviorally due my nervous tics. These symptoms and the bullying I dealt with for being “different” led to extreme behavior outbursts, including regular fistfights, vandalism, stealing, and other disruptive behaviors. Though school was tough, I was fortunate to have some very caring teachers who inspired me to do my best in everything I did.
Due to my 1.9 GPA in high school, I was admitted into college on a probationary status. However, I made the most of my opportunity. Every day was a battle with my Tourette's symptoms. I struggled with side effects of medications, and in 2000, I sustained a brain injury and developed a significant stutter that made communicating with others exasperating. Despite these challenges, I managed to earn a BA in English from Colorado State University-Pueblo in 2002.
Once I graduated, I decided I wanted to continue my education and help people with disabilities. I thought about the teachers I had and the indelible impact they had on my life. So my decision was easy: I was going to earn a Master's degree in special education and help kids with disabilities.
In 2005, I earned my MA in special education from the University of Colorado Colorado Springs. Shortly after, I got my first teaching position at Jordahl Elementary School teaching special education. At that point, I fell madly in love with teaching. I realized that my disability served as a bridge between me and my students. Like them, they learned that "Mr. C." was "different", so they were able to identify with me in a unique way.
Because I wanted to be the best teacher possible for my students, I continued my graduate studies and earned a second Master's degree from UCCS; this one in Curriculum & Instruction.
My passion for teaching kids with disabilities has inspired me to share my story of triumph and success, as well as the poignant anecdotes and life lessons I have experienced with my students. Through poetry, prose, and humor, I prove that you can conquer any challenge with a positive attitude, hard work, and determination.
My motto for my students is: “Always believe you can make a difference, but never let your differences keep you from what you believe.”
In front of every disability is a person working hard just to even the playing field.