Vanessa Contreras-Zavala

  • Vanessa Contreras-Zavala Vanessa Contreras-Zavala shares her joy in learning and life each day with everyone at Parkway Northeast Middle School.

    Vanessa, a seventh-grader who receives services from SSD at Parkway Northeast Middle, has developed independence using her power wheelchair to navigate the school and assistive technology to communicate what’s on her mind, said Carrie Leipholtz, an SSD speech-language pathologist who nominated Vanessa for the Rosemary Zander Award.

    “Vanessa has an excellent sense of humor and loves to tell jokes and make others laugh with her,” said Leipholtz. “She is bilingual – she communicates in English at school and Spanish at home and has a strong command of both languages.”

    Vanessa is also an advocate for students with cerebral palsy. She created a detailed presentation and shared it with fellow students, families and staff at Parkway Northeast Middle as part of her Genius Hour project. Her dream is to become a teacher assistant at Craig Elementary School in Parkway Schools, which she attended and loves to go back and visit.

    “Vanessa is insistent on being present in her classes and working at the same pace and rigor as her peers,” said Leipholtz. “She is a truly remarkable scholar at Parkway Northeast Middle School, and we feel honored to be her teachers. She is inspirational in her ability to persevere through difficulties and stay true to herself and her goals.”