Effingham Co. man becomes first person with fundamental disabilities to work in Ga. classroom

Southeast Region

EFFINGHAM COUNTY, Ga. (WSAV) — An Effingham County man is defying the odds against his disability.

As a man with Down syndrome, Michael Holton always knew he wanted to work in public education and this week, that dream finally came true.

“The students, they’re just going to thrive. Everyone at the school is going to thrive because Michael makes you want to be a better person,” said Kellie Lee, Technology Teacher at South Effingham Elementary School.

A moment that Holton has long-awaited.

“Ready for fifteen years now. It’s a huge change for me,” said Holton.

A trailblazer of sorts, Holton is the first person with fundamental disabilities to work in an Effingham County School District classroom and — to their knowledge — any public school district in Georgia.

“I feel like a proud momma. I had taught Michael before I had my own children so he was always kind of like my first child,” said Lee. “So, I’m just so proud of him, and I’m so proud of our school and our school system.”

Assisting full-time in the technology lab, Holton has already made a lasting impression on some of his students, from the energy he brings during morning drop-off, to the example he sets for all the young minds at South Effingham Elementary.

“I think it’s like pretty cool cause like, I know that we’re all different. We have different abilities, but…It just shows us that we can just be ourselves and do what we want,” said Shelby Mincey, a 5th grader at South Effingham Elementary.

South Effingham Elementary School Principal Mark Weese said he jumped at the opportunity to get Holton in the building as a full-time employee.

“I think that’s what’s so important with public education and things you don’t learn from textbooks and curriculums and standards is that we all have differences,” explained Weese, “and I think public education allows for us to accept those differences and interact with other people.”

As far as how his first day went — we’ll let Holton tell you.

“It went great today, meet new people, meeting new kids, starting my new career in schools,” he said.

If you know someone with disabilities looking for work, visit this link to find local supported employment options.

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