November 5, 2013

‘You can’t belittle someone into learning’

Southeast teacher recognized by ADHD resource group

By Christopher Smith

— Billie Abney says she still has a hard time sitting in one place for long periods of time. Especially when she’s as excited as she was Monday night at the Whitfield County Schools Board of Education meeting.

Abney, a science teacher at Southeast Whitfield High School, was recognized by the school board for being named national educator of the year by the Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder.

The national nonprofit organization, which promotes ADHD awareness, picked Abney from hundreds of teachers because of her “care and concern” for students with the disorder, a recognition letter stated. Those often hard-to-control ADHD impulses are something Abney experiences herself, she said.

“It calmed down a lot more in high school, but in elementary school I thought I would explode,” she said of her antsy nature, something she said gave her a “bad self-image.”

“This is what I don’t want to happen to kids (with ADHD): to have a bad self-perception,” she said.

The hyper personality and impulsiveness people with ADHD typically experience isn’t something to be ashamed off, Abney said.

“Self-image is extremely important in education,” she said. “You have got to get to them (any student with any disability) early and get them the accommodations they need and make them feel good about themselves and learning.”

Otherwise, they could get educational burnout, she said.

The best way to teach students, she said, is to spend individual time with them. Treating kids like individuals, instead of lecturing rigid education to the entire class, is the “most important” thing any teacher can do.

“You can’t belittle someone into learning,” she said.

To that end, her curriculum often offers a hands-on approach, she said, adding that her students don’t sit down for “more than 20 minutes in a day.”

Abney was remembered by several other teachers for one day inflating pig lungs with a vacuum to show students how the animal’s pulmonary system worked. That’s just one example of how active she keeps class.

“I keep it wild and wacky,” Abney joked.

Making things “active” is important, she added, because so many students — especially those struggling with hyperactivity — lose interest fast when they are “being forced to do something they can’t stand to do.”

It’s up to teachers to “make learning interesting,” she said.

But teachers aren’t the only ones responsible for a child’s education, Abney said. Parents have a responsibility too, especially when it comes to children who might have ADHD.

“The later you diagnosis these kinds of issues, the more problems that kid is going to have,” she said.

School officials said parents can use WebMD ( as a resource to use if they think their child has the disorder or consult their doctor.