Video: Teacher turns tragedy into inspiration

By Don Teague Correspondent
NBC News
updated 11/25/2006 10:05:25 AM ET 2006-11-25T15:05:25

Editor's note: An incorrect headline originally appeared on the online version of this story but was amended Saturday morning, Nov. 25.

You should know at the outset Betty Lewing doesn't think she's newsworthy. After all, she's just an ordinary teacher.

“I'm not doing anything that millions of other teachers don't do every day,” she says.

But consider what brought her here. After her daughter was kidnapped and raped seven years ago, Lewing went to work at a nearby prison, trying to understand why.

She discovered many of the inmates couldn't read. And she decided, then and there, to fight crime by teaching struggling highschoolers to read before it's too late.

“I believe that God led me on this direction, that this is where I'm supposed to be and what I'm supposed to do,” says Lewing, “because without his strength I could not make a difference.”

To date, Lewing has taught 600 teenagers with trouble reading to read better. Kids like Rodriquo Molino.

“She's gentle,” he says.

And 16-year-old Laura Kirkland, who thought dyslexia would always hold her back.

“Before I hated reading out loud, and now it's so much easier to get in there and read,” she says.

It's true that Betty Lewing considers it critical that students learn to read, but sometimes, she says, it's even more important that they know there's someone on the other end of the line. Many of her students come from troubled homes.

“My phone rings throughout the night, frequently, and it's normally kids that are in a situation where they need help,” she says.

Lewing has literally rescued students at two in the morning. Others, like Texas A&M running back Jorvorski Lane, a former student, just needed encouragement.

“She'll say, ‘Jorvorski,’ and I'll look, and she says, ‘You know what? I love you,’ and I would be like, man,” says Jorvorski.

Newsworthy?  Maybe not. But Betty Lewing's passion for her kids is anything but ordinary.

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