Wahpeton's middle school teacher was run over by car more than a year ago. Now she teaches students about disabilities

Tammy Goerger with her 8th grade students

WAHPETON, N.D. — Wahpeton Middle School music teacher Tammy Goerger is using a car accident that left her injured as a teaching tool during the school's inaugural Disability Awareness Week.

For Goerger, the inspiration for this week began in April 2018.

"I was run over by a car and it crushed my pelvis and acetabulum, which is what houses the femur bone," Goerger said.

Today, her experience fuels her passion to teach fundamental life lessons.


For the next few days, students at Wahpeton Middle School will experience what it's like to live with a disability and understand how their teacher's life changed.

The middle school's first Disability Awareness Week is inspired by Goerger's recovery.

In fact, what seemed like a "fun wheelchair ride" at first then uncovered a harsh realization for eighth grader Addison Gerdon.

"I kept putting my legs down," Gerdon said, "and I was like, 'No I can't do that. They can't do that, so I shouldn't be able to either'."

From station to station, students attempted to limit their current abilities by sitting in wheelchairs, using walkers and wearing vision impairment goggles. To impair their body movements, students wore special gloves to simulate muscle tremors.

"You were just continuously shaking. It was hard to do simple tasks like unlocking a locker or picking up coins," eighth grader Skyler Bladow said.

Goerger said she wants her students to understand others' daily struggles.


"It's important they build empathy for people, whether it be physical disabilities, mental disabilities or just people who live differently than they do," she said.

The teacher who inspired Disability Awareness Week said this is a chance for her students to gain an "attitude of gratitude and a lesson to last a lifetime."

Throughout the week, students will be challenged. On Tuesday, Nov. 5, students will sit in a wheelchair for an hour and attempt to accomplish their daily tasks.

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