Normandy Park teacher awarded 'Hero in the Classroom' by Seahawks, Symetra

NORMANDY PARK, Wash. - The Seattle Seahawks recognize teachers across the Puget Sound who are passionate about education. A Normandy Park teacher is the latest to be awarded for going above and beyond for her students.

Andrea Haisch is a kindergarten teacher at Marvista Elementary school. She received the Symetra “Heroes in the Classroom” award. The Seahawks partner with Symetra Financial Corporation for the program to honor teachers for outstanding leadership and instructional skills during the football season.

Haisch’s teaching skills aren’t the only reason why she’s a unique recipient. During college, she survived a traumatic experience that could have killed her. Now she’s using her survival story to teach her students about overcoming adversity.

“Children can persevere and that they are capable of so much when you give them the tools to succeed,” said Haisch.

In 2012, Haisch was hiking in Leavenworth with her brother and friend. All of a sudden, a boulder the size of a refrigerator tumbled down hill, pinning Haisch underneath. After hours of trying to get free, she was airlifted to a hospital in Seattle.

“Really threw my life for a spin, a big loop. and I remember just sitting there wondering and asking myself and my surgeons and my parents ‘Will I ever be a teacher?’” said Haisch.

She had to make a tough decision to amputate part of her left leg from the knee down. Though the boulder forced her to lose a limb, Haisch said she didn’t lose her passion for education.

Instead, it taught her to use her differences to teach others.

“Students come to school with all sorts of differences, whether it be their appearance or their ability or their families. To have mine be on display for all of my students to see and for them to understand that differences are not only accepted but also celebrated has been something that’s been really wonderful,” said Haisch.

Principal Melissa Pointer didn’t want Haisch’s unique approach to education to go unnoticed. She wrote a letter to nominate the kindergarten teacher for the Hero of the Classroom award.

“She has that impact beyond her classroom. She is so exciting and so fun to be around and so engaging with other students. Even those who have never been in her classroom, she’s known by all of the students in the community,” said Pointer.

Pointer’s nomination letter said in part:

She is bold and upfront about her prosthetic leg and helps kids to navigate complex related content that many adults still don’t know how to handle.

Symetra and the Seahawks awarded Haisch a $2,000 grant, game tickets and a VIP experience at Centurylink Stadium. Haisch said it was an honor to be recognized and in the same vicinity as her favorite Seahawk, Shaquem Griffin—the NFL’s first amputee player.

“It was kind of like a merging of both of my worlds being someone from Seattle who has rooted for the Seahawks my whole life and then my amputee community who’s like so excited to see someone who looks like us be on the big main stage,” said Haisch.

Though she didn’t get to meet Griffin, she hopes one day he’ll come to the classroom so they can both teach her kids a lesson in overcoming adversity.

“To be a part of their foundational educational experience has just been really exciting to see,” said Haisch.