First Teacher with Down Syndrome


Down syndrome is a genetic disorder caused by abnormal cell division resulting in an extra chromosome. Down syndrome is associated with a distinct facial appearance, intellectual disability, and developmental delays. Down syndrome is also goofiness, it is spontaneity, it is an uncommon love, it is looking at life through a lens that nobody with just 23 chromosomes ever could. 

Noelia Garella teaches preschool in Cordoba, Argentina. Her two and three-year-old kids absolutely adore her. Noelia began as a reading assistant in 2012, and now co-teaches a class of her own.

As long as she could remember, she’s had a passion for working with children. “I adore this,” she told AEP. “Ever since I was little I have always wanted to be a teacher, because I like children so much.”

Garella also has Down syndrome. But that does not define her, and it never has.

As a child, she was refused entry to a primary school, being called a monster. But even that couldn’t stop her. Over twenty years later, she returned to the classroom to defy the labels put on her and her condition for her entire life. Alejandra Senestrari was the progressive who gave Noelia the job. She, too, faced opposition upon her decision.

Garella’s honest passion and true talent for teaching is what ultimately dissolved that opposition.

“We very quickly realized that she had a strong vocation,” Senestrari said. “She gave what the children in the nursery classes most appreciate, which is love.”

Vista’s very own Jude Morehead,11, has her own dreams and aspirations. “I want to work with animals,” Morehead said, “I really love animals.” Nothing has stopped her dreams, and she doesn’t plan on it, either.

Garella is Latin America’s first teacher with Down syndrome, and joins the few worldwide. Her story is an inspirational success to those alongside her, both coworkers and others with Downs and special needs.
“Oh, it is lovely when someone like me is born,” Garella said. Well said, Noelia, well said.

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