Teachers are long known for dipping into their own pockets to provide classroom supplies. This Walnut High educator went a step further for one of her students.
By Kelli Gile
Walnut–Walnut High School teacher, Kirsten Thibeault, usually spends time in the evenings correcting homework and creating lesson plans for her six English courses. On Tuesday night, however, she put aside the schoolwork to sort through boxes and boxes of Lego building blocks, platforms, and characters. Thibeault was motivated to comb through her son’s long outgrown collection to offer a personalized birthday gift to one of her students. “I have this amazing special-needs student named Bradley Conrad who is in my general education College Prep English class,” she said. This is his first time in his high school career the senior has been in this type of English class. “Bradley makes everyone smile, he volunteers for everything, and his optimism is contagious,” she described.
The teen had recently written an essay about how the Thomas the Tank television show along with Lego “guys” help him, and other kids with autism, learn to navigate the world. Conrad also shared with his teacher that his 17th birthday was coming up and he wanted to start a YouTube channel about the railway series. Thibeault mentioned that her son had a ton of unused toys and would he want them? “That would be the greatest birthday present ever!” he replied. After two hours of sorting, the giving educator ended up with a huge plastic box of pirates and knights and dragons and boats along with about 200 additional tiny Lego figurines.
Thibeault made true on her promise and presented the wrapped gift on September 21. She even created a huge birthday card with Lego stickers that all his classmates signed. “I was very surprised!” Conrad said after receiving the thoughtful present. “No other teacher has ever remembered my birthday,” he commented. Conrad came up with the idea to use Lego figurines to create custom characters because they are small enough to fit inside Thomas’ cab and on the wooden train track. “One of the first customs I did was Mr. Fergus Duncan, the railway controller, and his arch nemesias, Mr. Peregrine Percival,” he proudly recalled. “I have a lot of ideas for these new pieces,” he offered.
Conrad is excited because the first period class is already helping him stay on course for plans after graduation. “It’s not just English, Ms. Thibeault is giving life lessons and helping me prep for college!” he said.