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Suzanne Garnett wants you to know “it’s ok to learn different.”

Written by Mike Savona

Suzanne Garnett is a talented young educator in the School District of Philadelphia. A teacher of grades 1 and 2 at Roosevelt Elementary in Germantown, Suzanne arrived at her present position by non-traditional means and despite significant obstacles.

Suzanne was born and raised in Northeast Philly to immigrant parents – her mother from Trinidad and her father from Guyana – and grew up the child of a single mom. At a relatively young age, Suzanne learned that she suffered from an auditory processing disorder, a learning disorder that requires her to take longer to process and comprehend information than other students. “It’s a learning difference not a learning disability” Suzanne tells me. This difference shaped Suzanne’s young life and has informed her work as an adult in both positive and negative ways.

As a student, Suzanne found that her learning difference was often misunderstood. Even at home her own grandmother didn’t comprehend or fully appreciate the nature of her auditory processing disorder. As a result, Suzanne faced discrimination both at home and at school because of her learning disability. As she grew and advanced to high school, the negativity and discriminatory attitudes of her peers only became worse. “On a daily basis, I found myself facing bullying and discrimination because of my learning difference” Suzanne tells me, “but more surprising was the racism that went with it.” “As the black child of immigrant parents with a learning disability, I faced a trifecta of discrimination” she says.

Despite the negativity and prejudice she confronted while in school, Suzanne was never deterred. She chose instead to take the negativity and use it as an inspiration to do better. “The negativity actually motivated me” she tells me, “it made me