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MAYWOOD, Ill. — A suburban preschool teacher is showing her young students the power of confidence and acceptance.

At Lincoln Elementary School in Maywood, Mrs. Dianna Akers’ preschool class communicates in English, Spanish, and sign language.

“Every student should be able to learn. They just have to find their path,” she said. “And I want to help them find their path.”

Class has been in session on Zoom. But starting next week, some students are returning.

Akers has been at the school for three years, helping preschoolers tap into their unique superpowers. Hers is severe hearing loss.

“People will be like, ‘It’s terrible that you can’t hear.’ And I’m like, ‘Are you kidding me? My wonderful world of silence. It’s a superpower,” she said. “I love it because you have those students who have a different way of learning. I, growing up, had a different way of learning so I wanted to connect with that. I wanted to offer that opportunity to teach at a different level, a different exposure. Some of the things I may not be able to hear but I can read facial expressions. I can see. I can relate a lot better to the non-verbal students too.”

Miryam Zuniga’s daughter Zaidee is in Akers class.

”For my daughter, she’s kind of speech impaired,” she said. “It was very difficult for her to communicate with me. And for Ms. Akers to show that there’s another way to communicate with somebody else, not just by being verbal, and sign language to Zaidee was actually very helpful.”

Zuniga nominated Akers for Teacher of the Month. She said her classroom is bursting with acceptance and love.

“I will never forget about this day, there was a child there that was going through a tough time. And I saw her get down to her knees and ask them, ‘Are you hungry?’” Zuniga said. “And she physically went and got lunch from the lunchroom to bring to that kid, and just laid it all out for him to eat. And to me when I saw that, it’s like we just need more people like that.”

“You don’t work for a reward. You work to make a difference in someone’s life,” Akers said. “And for her mom to notice that’s what we work for…that is…that is touching.”

Award sponsor and attorney Kenneth Allen gave Akers a $1,000 for the school.

Akers wants to make sure her kids are ready for kindergarten and embracing their different abilities with confidence.

“If I can give you confidence in yourself, to me that’s the biggest difference,” Akers said. “You teach them to be kind. You give them confidence. Because when they leave here, they got to love themselves. They got to love everything about themselves. It starts at a very early age.”