Meet the Teacher: A Donor-Funded Gift to Kids

December 15, 2016
Topics: Donors, Riley Staff Profiles

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Amy Boggess, Riley School Program Teacher

A philanthropic gift made to Riley Children’s Foundation is making an enormous impact on children. Thanks to the gift made by John and Marianne Hart, the Riley School Program was able to hire an additional teacher to serve outpatients. Today, we’re pleased to introduce you to Amy Boggess, the Riley School Program teacher (and former Riley patient) who has recently moved into this new donor-funded position.

Q: What are your thoughts about the donors who made your new position possible?
A: I’m beyond grateful to the donors who made this position possible. It’s truly an act of grace and their kindness is reaching great lengths. Through their donation they are impacting a child’s future and are making an impact that will last a lifetime.  

Q: What are the most rewarding parts of your work?
A: It’s hard to narrow down one thing that makes my job rewarding, but I would say the most fulfilling parts of my job is to be able to provide relief to a patient/student and family and inform families about special education law; accommodations their child can receive, and rights they have as a student and parent. Being able to advocate for a child’s education is very purposeful for me and it allows me to bring something to the table that is normal to a child; I get to talk to them about school, classes, and their peers instead of procedures, diagnosis, tests, etc. 

Q: During The Gift of Hope Happens Here holiday season campaign, thousands of community members and Riley staff members are stepping up to donate to Riley. What is your message to those who give in support of the hospital?
A: Every single child/student/patient I’ve met, has truly impacted who I am today. They inspire me every day with the smile they keep on their face during a difficult or challenging time or obstacle they’ve been given. I just always think of them and what they’ve unknowingly done for me, so I encourage everyone to even just give a little because a little goes a long way and together we can truly make a difference for the children we see here at Riley. We often see the red wagon buckets out in the community at grocery stores and gas stations. This year, instead of passing it by or thinking someone else will contribute, throw in your spare change or a dollar because you are truly making a difference. You are giving to research to hopefully find more cures, you are giving to provide equipment so doctors can successfully do their jobs, you are giving to provide enough staff so we can efficiently provide great care for our patients, and most of all you are giving them hope.

Q: Tell us about your background—what drew you to teaching, and to Riley Hospital?
A: I went to Ball State University and received my teaching license in Special Education- Deaf Education/Mild Disabilities. Through a couple college courses I found a love for sign language and special education, which then drew me to teaching. As I finished my teaching degree, I discovered as an educator I didn’t want to be teaching in the typical classroom environment, but I wasn’t sure what that meant for me. My path to Riley took place at one of my last pediatric cardiology appointments I had at Riley (25 years old I'm now 33) before moving to adult cardiology. Yes, I myself am a Riley patient, so working here at Riley isn’t just a job for me. I was diagnosed a few weeks after birth with a bicuspid valve defect and a narrowing in my aortic valve, my parents drove me down to Riley from Fort Wayne yearly to see a pediatric cardiologist. I was never inpatient, but always seen in the ROC cardiology clinic. During my appointment my cardiologist, Dr. Girod, mentioned he thought Riley had a school program, but wasn’t sure the details about the program, so of course I did some investigating. I ended up turning my resume to the supervisor of the program, but the Riley School Program didn’t have any open teaching positions at that time. Almost nine months later I got a phone call from the supervisor of the program saying they still had my resume on file and they wanted to know if I was still interested in a teaching position as one had just opened up. I came in to interview and I haven’t left since. I’ve been here for eight years and I can’t imagine ever teaching anywhere else! 

Q: Can you explain your new role with outpatients, and some of the services you provide? Why was this new position needed?
A: I’m really excited about my new role within some of our outpatient clinics because this is a huge need for our families and patients! School is such an important part of a child’s life, so when their life gets interrupted because of an illness, new diagnosis, or trauma, it’s important to make sure there is someone by their side advocating for their educational needs. As a teacher in an outpatient setting, I will be able to assist families with their child’s IEP or 504 Plan, set up homebound if the child will miss more than 20 days of school, educate schools on a child’s illness/diagnosis, assist with transitioning back into school, coordinate the Speedway Bear in the Chair program, and provide as much normalcy to allow a child to continue their education alongside their peers. This position is needed because our school program has evolved and grown over the years, which has heightened the awareness not only within the hospital but outside in the community, so we started receiving more school consults and referrals when patients were coming to appointments, including families and patients we had never even met before. We also tracked the number of families who we had met during an inpatient stay and were coming to outpatient clinic appointments with school issues, questions, or concerns. Our department never had funding for a full time outpatient teacher position, so all of the teachers were full time serving our inpatient populations while also trying to fulfill the needs that were arising outpatient. I know all of the teachers within our school program are grateful for the opportunity to continue to grow our school program because growing our program allows us to reach more patients and families! Being a teacher in a hospital setting is such a unique and important role, because our work goes beyond the walls of Riley Hospital for Children. I will only be able to be present in a couple outpatient clinics, so my hope someday is that we will have more outpatient teachers to provide this service to more of our patients and families.  

Q: Can you share a moment when you could tell your work made a difference?
A: I recently had the opportunity to help a student who was newly diagnosed with a brain tumor. The student underwent proton radiation for six weeks in Chicago and then started chemotherapy at Riley this fall. It was a goal for this student to try to go back to school before chemotherapy started. Before going back into school, I was able to go to this student's classroom to educate her third grade peers about the new diagnosis and what this school year would look for their friend. I provided a Bear delivery with the help of the Riley Children’s Foundation and Speedway as this student will most likely not be attending school regularly while undergoing treatment. This Bear sits in the student’s chair as a reminder to her peers that she is still a part of the classroom even though she might not be physically present at school. I was also able to set up homebound services for this student and provide medical information to the student’s school and teachers. I can't imagine as a parent to have to worry about a child’s health let alone figure out all the necessary details to make sure there is a school plan set in place, so I’m thankful for the opportunity to help this student and family.  

Q: Any fun facts you’d like to share about yourself?  
A: I’ve been married to my husband for six years and have a sweet and fun loving 7-month-old baby boy. In my spare time I enjoy being outside, relaxing, and surrounding myself with my family and friends. 

Riley Blogger

The Riley Blog is written and/or edited by members of the Riley Children's Foundation Communications Staff.

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