ATLANTA, Ga. (CBS46) — Social media is flooded with posts of graduates getting their 2021 diploma. But CBS46 found one, celebrating a student that some thought would never make it.
Banneker High School senior Zoey Tanner beat the odds, and her family threw a bash to celebrate her and her biggest cheerleader: her teacher!
Zoey has limited vocabulary but her smile says it all.
“Do you like being a sparkle cheerleader?” questioned Zoey’s mom.
Zoey excitedly shakes her head back and forth in a big yes!
“Do you love Ms. Lewis and her classroom?”
With the biggest smile yet, Zoey gleams and shakes her head yes!
Janelle Tanner, Zoey’s mom, says even on the weekends, Zoey wants to be at school.
“Zoey has us ride by Bannaker on the weekends just to pass by Bannaker because that’s how much she loves the school,” said Tanner.
4 years ago, this seemed impossible. Much less graduating high school.
“The challenges of having a special needs child is just having a child accepted,” Tanner admitted.
Zoey, who had just transferred to Atlanta’s South side, required intensive training to read, write as well as occupational therapy. Zoey’s favorite teacher – at Bannaker High School – spent countless hours going above and beyond, made all the difference, according to Tanner.
“A lot of things are taught in the classroom but the things that these teachers show, it has to be in you it you can’t learn that in any type of classroom. I tell everyone who has special education needs to come to Bannaker.” Exclaimed Tanner.
Kala Lewis, a 21 year veteran educator, dedicated the last 8 years of her career to special education in Fulton County.
She watched shy Zoey become a Sparkle cheerleader, win a sparkle homecoming queen nomination and a slew of awards for honor roll, attendance and being an athlete.
“It’s rewarding to see your work pour into one of the students and the outcome of it. It’s very rewarding,” said Kala Lewis, Zoey’s teacher.
Zoey’s parents can’t thank Ms. Lewis enough.
“I know I cannot even say it was me or my husband. I know we laid a foundation, but Bannaker and Ms. Lewis did so much for Zoey, so much for her!” added Tanner.
Against the odds, Zoey graduated high school, class of 2021.
Celebrating by her side: family and her most consistent and biggest cheerleader Ms. Lewis.
“We feel the love. My husband feels the love. I feel the love. Zoey feels the love it goes you know, it goes both ways,” said Tanner.
“It makes me feel so proud to know that Zoey can accomplish anything that she can put her mind to. I know she can!”