Henry Winkler Speaks at Grace College During Transition Exploration Day
Henry Winkler, famed actor, director, producer, author and speaker shared his thoughts and experiences on the topics of disability awareness and overcoming disabilities on Friday, March 23, at the Orthopaedic Capital Center on the Grace College campus. Winkler served as the keynote speaker for Transition Exploration Day, an event during which high school students with disabilities from area schools visited Grace College. 72 Warsaw High School students and 30 Bremen High School students attended the event along with Grace College students and members of the community.
Winkler captivated the audience with his humor, anecdotes and personal observations. Winkler told the audience that although he’s an actor, director, producer and writer, he is in the bottom three percent academically in America. Winkler’s series of children’s books, the “Hank Zipzer” series, was inspired by his learning challenges.
Although Winkler struggled with dyslexia throughout his education and his life, he says he overcame the discouragement from his parents, classmates and teachers with tenacity and gratitude. “Tenacity — sticking to it — gets you where you want, and gratitude doesn’t allow you to be angry along the way.” Winkler encouraged students that no matter how difficult learning may be for them, they still have just as much to offer society as the next person. “Every single one of you in this room has greatness inside of you. Your job is to figure out what your gift is, dig it out and give it to the world.” Winkler also encouraged teachers to focus on building students’ self-esteem. “The beginning and the end of a great teacher is making sure that if nothing else, your students feel good about themselves.”
Following the keynote address, a Transition Exhibition was held in the upper concourse of the OCC, during which the visiting students were able to explore career opportunities at booths hosted by local agencies and businesses.
Transition Exploration Day was sponsored in part by the Council for Exceptional Children Grace College student chapter. According to the official website, the Council for Exceptional Children (CEC) “is the largest international professional organization dedicated to improving the educational success of individuals with disabilities, gifts and talents.”
Special Education Professor Cheryl Bremer deemed Transition Exploration Day a success. “Transition Exploration Day was such a powerful learning experience for both area high school students and the Grace community to gain a better understanding of disabilities. Today went a long way toward opening hearts and minds to the ways we can better relate to those with disabilities. Henry Winkler was fantastic and we had a great turnout from the area schools. We set the bar high for next year,” Bremer said.