Greg Carlson has had to overcome learning disabilities throughout his life, but when he met his high school teacher, Megan Gross, learning became a lot easier.
“It was always a joy to come in here and she’s just a wonderful teacher because she’s helped me a lot through my four years of high school,” Carlson, 19, said. “The way Mrs. Gross taught me was very easy and precise and I could easily understand the material.”
Gross, 36, is one of the country’s top educators. This year, she was California’s Teacher of the Year and a top four finalist for the National Teacher of the Year Award.
Gross is beginning her 5th year of teaching an autism spectrum disorder class at Del Norte High School in San Diego, California.
“I think the most misunderstood part about students with autism is that ... they’re not one of us,” Gross said. “It doesn’t matter if a student has autism, it doesn’t matter if a student has Down syndrome, it doesn’t matter if a student is an AP student, I think that you have to see kids for who they are.”
Sharon Carlson told ABC News that her son was placed in classes that cater to students with autism because "he has a learning disability [and] mainstream classes at times provided too challenging."
Gross said Carlson exemplifies perseverance. “When road blocks get in his way, with his health or with other challenges, he takes that in stride,” she said.
Carlson credits Gross’ teaching style for putting him on the path to become a phys ed teacher for kids with disabilities.
“The best piece of advice I can give Greg is to keep being Greg,” Gross said.