Changing lives one challenge at a time

                                                               Photo by Shari Harris
By Shari Harris

“Teachers can change lives with just the right mix of chalk and challenges.” This quote by Joyce Meyer characterizes the impact of a good teacher. The challenges teachers provide their students help them develop and succeed in the world. A good teacher knows when and how to help her students meet those challenges, at the same time, encouraging their independence. One teacher who is no stranger to overcoming challenges and preserving independence is Cynthia Floyd.
Floyd’s life was forever changed in August 1986 when, at the age of 12, a motor vehicle accident took most of her family and resulted in a spinal cord injury that permanently paralyzed both of her legs. She met and overcame those overwhelming challenges with the help of family and friends. In the decades since then, Cynthia Floyd discovered her calling. She has taught English to high school students for over 15 years, helping to prepare her students to meet and overcome obstacles life may throw in their path.
Floyd’s teaching career began in Otterville, then she taught at Smith-Cotton in Sedalia for three years before changing to the Fayette school district. With 14 years of teaching behind her, she took a break from the schools for a while. But she continued to help others, working for 3-1/2-years as an advocate for youth with disabilities at Services for Independent Living in Columbia.
“My passion is working with kids,” said Floyd. She was able to draw from her own experiences to inspire and educate her clients on how to live independently despite the obstacles they may face. But the call of teaching brought her back. She moved to Rolla and began teaching in Cuba in 2018, where she taught until health issues recently forced her to resign.
The paralysis caused by spinal cord injuries is the most obvious obstacle faced by people who suffer them, however, other common effects can happen months, years or decades after the injury. One such problem is recurring urinary tract infections (UTIs). The management of emptying the bladder due to paralysis of the muscles that would normally allow it to empty contributes to this problem. Another common issue is wounds caused by pressure.
Our nerves tell us when our skin has had pressure too long in an area, but when nerves no longer communicate with the brain after a spinal cord injury, there is no warning that tells a person to shift their position. Once a wound has formed, getting it to heal is difficult for the same reason. Wounds lengthened Floyd’s college career, when a shower chair created an injury her freshman year. But with time, her injury healed. She was able to overcome that obstacle and follow her dream.
Now another wound has derailed her plans. What possibly started as an infection at the site of an ingrown hair has troubled her for two years. Plastic surgery in St. Louis over the summer appeared to have taken care of the problem, but a small sore at a suture wouldn’t heal and has progressed. In November she was hospitalized at Phelps Health and then was in a long term care facility in Columbia from December 13 until January 7.
Much to the delight of her cats, Lorelai and Rory, Floyd has returned home to her apartment in Rolla. Her wound is on the road to recovery, but part of that recovery involves a regimen of lying down much of the day to alleviate pressure on her skin and a high protein diet. She is unable to return to work at this time.
“I want to teach again,” said Floyd. “It’s my calling.” But, she emphasized, she knows she must heal before committing to a position in a school setting. She has received some leads for teaching on-line, and thinks this may work with her schedule. Tutoring is another possibility she is looking into.
                                                              Photo by Shari Harris
This quilt, made by Betty Bates of Licking, 
will be raffled to benefit her niece, Cynthia Floyd. 
Tickets will be available at the benefit Saturday 
and the drawing will be held at a later date.
Decades ago, family and friends pitched in to help Floyd meet and overcome her challenges, just as she has with so many students and clients over the years. Again, family and friends are organizing to help her stay in her apartment until she can get back to teaching full time. The ladies of the Licking United Methodist Church will have a benefit at their Fellowship Hall for Cynthia Floyd from 4 to 8 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 25, including a silent auction and a dinner consisting of chili, ham and beans, cornbread, biscuits, desserts and tea or lemonade.
With positivity, joy and peace as her mantra for this new year and with the family and friends she has supporting her, Floyd has all the right ingredients to power through this latest challenge and return to offering challenges to help others learn.



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