Sandy Combs Amerson, a speech therapist at Sumiton Christian School, recently received an award for Alumnus of the Year from her alma matter, Dora High School.
Amerson is the daughter of the late Pete and Helen Combs of Dora. She graduated from Dora High School, double majored in speech therapy and psychology at the University of Montevallo, and worked for more than 25 years as a speech therapist for children in Walker County.
Amerson also has cerebral palsy. Cerebral palsy is a condition that impairs movement, and can often result in involuntary movements. At a young age, Amerson was a theme child for the United Cerebral Palsy telethon.
When she was in high school, fellow students would often help Amerson to and from class. Now, more than 40 years later, her peers have given her the honor of being Alumnus of the Year for Dora High School.
Amerson received her award at the school's banquet earlier this year. According to Amerson, the recipient of the Alumnus of the Year award is someone who is doing positive things in his or her community.
"This award is so special to me . . . because it came from my peers," Amerson said. The Alumnus of the Year award is not the first award Amerson has received. In 1988, Amerson won the Walker County Professional Handicap Woman of the Year award, and the Alabama State Professional Woman of the Year award.
While Amerson is humbled by the awards that she has received, her experience teaching is especially rewarding. Amerson retired in 2000, but she was later asked to teach part-time at Sumiton Christian.
Amerson has worked for years with children to help them improve their speech skills. "We do fun activities that lead to improved conversational skills," she said. Amerson also works closely with parents, making speech packets, so that speech training conducted in the classroom, can be reinforced at home.
She has even done private therapy, where she works with children one on one, outside of the classroom. "When I realize what I've done . . . to be able to hear them say their words correct . . . it's very fulfilling," Amerson said.
When Amerson is not teaching, you may find her working on her book, "A Smile from Heaven," where she tells her story, including the effect that cerebral palsy has had on her life. She said that she has never felt that her condition is a struggle.
"The character they (Amerson's parents) instilled in me to strive to be better at what you're doing, that's how I'm doing life," she said. Amerson lives with her husband, L.J. Amerson, and continues teaching at Sumiton Christian.
"Life's been great for me, and I wouldn't change any of it," she said.