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Through ALS, Educator Vivian Connell's Voice Persists

Vivian Connell

When Vivian Connell was in college, she was already a teachers' advocate. She was on CNN in the network's early years to talk about a teacher's wrongful termination at the University of Georgia. But she wanted more people to hear her voice.

When Vivian became a teacher, she amplified it through her students. They advocated for land conservancies and against genocide in Africa. But she still wanted to be louder.

When Vivian decided to go back to school for a law degree, the plan was to become an effective lobbyist for public education. The most powerful people in North Carolina would finally hear her.

Vivian Connell speaks at the Speak Out 4 Teachers rally in Raleigh, November 2013
Credit Vivian Connell
Vivian Connell speaks at the Speak Out 4 Teachers rally in Raleigh, November 2013

And when Vivian Connell was diagnosed with ALS last year, she had to come to terms with the idea that her voice would soon be silent.  

But along the way, she had inspired so many people that they started speaking for her. National education analyst Diane Ravitch told Vivian's story on her blog. Donations started pouring in for her classes. And she had become an advocate for teachers across the state. Her voice was stronger than ever.

Host Frank Stasio talks with Connell about her life and work as a teacher and teachers' advocate.

Connell writes about education and ALS on her blog, finALS.

She is the guest of honor at a benefit for the Public Justice Foundation on April 10 at the Cat's Cradle in Carrboro. It will feature a documentary about REM, one of the bands Connell photographed in college, and songs from the PopUp Chorus.

Will Michaels is WUNC's Weekend Host and Reporter.
Longtime NPR correspondent Frank Stasio was named permanent host of The State of Things in June 2006. A native of Buffalo, Frank has been in radio since the age of 19. He began his public radio career at WOI in Ames, Iowa, where he was a magazine show anchor and the station's News Director.