From Riverside to Athens

Originally from a small town in Illinois, Cynthia Gaines moved to Athens for a brand new start. Moving to Athens has been a culture shock for her. 

Gaines was born in Riverside, Illinois. During her years at Riverside Brookfield High School, she had what she called a typical high school experience. 

“I grew up in a small town. You knew everybody, it was quaint and cute. The high school had students we went to elementary school with,” Gaines said. Cedar shoals houses over 1,000 students coming from Coile and Hilsman middle school. Students don’t mix often and stay in their preferred circles.

Gaines co-teaches geometry for sophomores at Cedar Shoals. Seeing her neurodivergent brother going through hardships in school sparked her desire to teach special education to help others who were struggling in school in the same way as her brother. 

“He’s really what prompted me to go into special education. He has special needs and I pretty much saw the challenges that he went through in school and we went through as a family.” Gaines said. 

They weren’t only academic challenges either. 

“He had many challenges so just being in the school environment in general. Behaviorally, emotionally, and all the stress,” Gaines said. 

After having her first daughter, she attended Benedictine University to get her teaching certification. Subsequently, she obtained a health certification to teach special needs education at the University of Illinois. 

While also having the challenge of keeping students safe from COVID-19, there is also a challenge to keep students engaged in class. Geometry is an abstract subject that requires focus and time to fully comprehend. 

“If I can get them to understand something, I think that’s really gratifying,” Gaines said. 

Aissatou Sarr

Sophomore Aissatou Sarr is a new staff writer for BluePrints Magazine. She would like to one day be an orthodontist or potentially a journalist. Sarr likes to write books for fun in her free time. With this being her first year as a part of the staff, Sarr would like to improve her writing skills. She appreciates the dedication that her peers in journalism put into their work.