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Special Education speaker enlightens, inspires BPC education community
| Shari Rusch Furnstahl greets audience members from the community following her presentation/performance Sept. 11. (Photo by Kelley M. Arnold)
“It’s funny: People used to tell me to sit down and be quiet. Now they fly me across the country to speak.” -- Shari Rusch Furnstahl
By Kayla Oliver
BPC Marketing Staff Writer
MOUNT VERNON—Brewton-Parker College received the special opportunity to hear the testimony of Mrs. Shari Rusch Furnstahl Sept. 11 in Gilder Recital Hall. Furnstahl is the author of a new book entitled, “From Stumbling Blocks to Stepping Stones: Help and Hope for Special Needs Kids”, and her message is simple: “I’m living proof that miracles can happen.”
|Shari Rusch Furnstahl, Education Division-sponsored speaker on special needs children, sings to the attendees of the Sept. 11 event. Furnstahl’s recently published book, “From Stumbling Blocks to Stepping Stones: Help and Hope for Special Needs Kids” is one part memoir and one part self-help for parents and educators of challenged children. (Photo by Kayla Oliver)
Furnstahl, a nationally-respected speaker on children with special needs, reminded the audience that all obstacles and challenges will – and can – be used for God’s glory. Throughout her 60-minute presentation, which was sponsored by the college’s Division of Education, she shared how she overcame great challenges in her life – including birth defects and social and learning disabilities – to graduate fourth in her high school class and earn both a bachelor’s and a master’s degree. She is now a special education teacher.
The chair of BPC’s Division of Education, Dr. David Moffett, said that students enjoyed Furnstahl’s lecture so much that “several of the students were in Blackboard posting responses past midnight (the evening of the presentation).” He said that one post on the Blackboard page made by BPC student Kathryn Moye stood out. She posted, “Shari Rusch said tonight that a teacher’s job is to love the students so in reality we are not changing the students but loving them and guiding them into the light.” Dr. Moffett states that, “Learning is 24-7. Not just in the classroom.”
Furnstahl’s entry into the world is the beginning of her challenges, she says in her book. She was born with her umbilical cord wrapped tightly around her head and suffered from various defects from this condition. From the time of her birth until early adolescence, Shari struggled socially and her mother noticed that she seemed to have difficulties with developing motor skills and concentration.
“I was called clumsy, awkward, and uncoordinated,” she says.
Because Furnstahl had difficulties with coordination and understanding order and function, her mother taught her simple household tasks, such as her favorite chore, making the bed. In school, she had a “low-attention” span, and always felt as though her teachers only reprimanded her. She jokingly says that she thought “Sit down and be quiet was my first name.” And, sadly, her parents were told that she’d never complete school beyond fifth or sixth grade.
However, as time progressed, Furnstahl found out that her teachers really did believe in her abilities and she began to study diligently. She “went from being an F student to graduating with a 4.0 GPA.” She believes that she would not have succeeded thus far without God and loving teachers. For this reason, Furnstahl stressed to all BPC education majors to “always love their students and to all students embrace their obstacles and trust God.”
A book signing was held in the Phillips Student Center before the presentation. Furnstahl’s book will be available in the Campus Store for a limited time.
For more information on the book or helping and raising children with special needs, visit Furnstahl’s website at www.sharirusch.com. Her book, published by Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., is a Focus on the Family collection book, endorsed by Dr. James Dobson.
Furnstahl began sharing her inspirational story at the age of 18, speaking to special-needs students as well as parent groups and educational organizations. She coordinated the education program for Special Delivery, a nonprofit ministry to pregnant and parenting women, and founded Positive Program Services, Inc., which trains students from diverse backgrounds in innovative drug, alcohol and violence prevention programs.
Today she speaks at in-services for teachers; at conferences for educators, administrators and student groups; and at church conferences and women’s retreats. She has touched close to one million people in the United States and Canada with her words of instruction and encouragement.