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As a recently certified teacher, I’m excited about my new career. For me, there is no better feeling than watching a person gain confidence by helping him or her understand and master a difficult concept, as well as achieve their personal and academic goals and dreams! I want my students to believe they can do anything to which they set their minds. Living with Crouzon Syndrome has helped me develop that personal mindset.

Crouzon Syndrome is a genetic disorder characterized by premature fusion of the skull bones, affecting the shape of the head and face. In my case, my breathing, vision, hearing, eating, speech, and sleep have been affected. Until the age of five, I had a G-tube inserted because I was unable to swallow. I had a tracheotomy at a young age to help me breathe, and I currently wear hearing aids that allow me to hear better. Like others with Crouzon, I have had ongoing surgeries and treatments, including a life-changing jaw surgery at age 18.

Several things have kept me positive along the way: a loving extended family who was always there to support me; a core group of friends who helped me through the inevitable tough times at school; my involvement with AboutFace and Camp Trailblazers, where I made friends who today are truly my second family; and taking on every volunteer and leadership role I could.

I have always wanted to be known for my capabilities as opposed to my limitations. Throughout high school, I kept my hair down to hide my hearing aid. That way, it was my choice to ask others if I needed help or accommodations, rather than have people make assumptions about my disability that were well-meaning but often misguided.

One of the things I am most proud of to date is running for (and winning) student council both at Victoria College, U of T and at Queen’s University Faculty of Education – something I never thought I would ever do when I was younger. I am glad I felt empowered to not let my facial difference stop me from taking a risk or putting myself out there! Never let your facial difference stop you from achieving your goals! So, try out for that sports team, run for student council, audition for the play, sing in choir – you never know how big of an impact it will have on you and your life! Let others see just how capable, passionate and beautiful you are!

It’s only in the past few years that I’ve become more comfortable speaking openly about my difference. I want to help dispel the myths and stereotypes about the facial difference community that persist, and to speak out against prejudice when I see it.

I now believe that my facial difference is a blessing in disguise. The ability to look past people’s exteriors and discover their personalities, dreams, and talents is a wonderful gift that I want to pass along to my students. The sky is truly the limit to what they can achieve!

I am determined, empowered, upbeat, caring, and I am passionate about helping others grow and learn!

[Watch Christine on an episode of the CBC show “You Can’t Ask That” by clicking here!]