Students inspire teacher to return
As an educator, Patrick LaTouche strives daily to motivate his students.
But after a stroke left him struggling to walk in 2009, it was the students at Atascocita Middle School who helped give him the drive to continue pushing himself.
"The students inspired me to get back to teaching," said LaTouche, who received a number of letters, pictures and e-mails from students during his recovery, urging him to keep fighting.
His colleagues sent cards as well. LaTouche read their words of encouragement every day before therapy.
"I just worked my tail off to get as better as I could," he said.
LaTouche, a 58-year-old Kingwood resident, has been thriving since he returned to teaching math last August. And the faculty, administrators and students continue to encourage him.
"The kids have been very respectful, opening doors for me. It's been a great experience."
Teaching is a relatively new field for LaTouche. He spent more than 25 years working in the computer industry. After four lay-offs in eight years, he decided it was a good a time as any to pursue his interest in teaching.
"I've always wanted to be a teacher," he said. "My kids would come home, and I'd help them with their math. I helped their friends."
LaTouche completed an alternative certification program for degree holders who want to become teachers at Lonestar College-Kingwood and began his new career in education in the early 2000s.
"I love it when a student comes up to me and says they got a really good grade on a test, and I helped, or they write to me. That's better than any corporate bonus. When you touch a kid's life, that's forever."
There was some serious doubt that LaTouche would ever teach again after he had his stroke.
It hit on Aug. 23, 2009, one day before the 2009-2010 school year was to begin.
"My left hand went numb the day before," LaTouche said. "I should have told my wife. She was going to take a big nursing exam the next day, and I didn't want to mess that up."
Instead, LaTouche took some aspirin.
On the morning of Aug. 23, he couldn't feel his clothing. His speech was slurred. He knew what had happened.
Initially, he was taken by ambulence to Memorial Hermann Northeast, but wife Belinda had him transferred to Memorial Hermann Hospital The Woodlands, where she is a nurse, so she could keep a close eye on him.
The stroke left him unable to walk and significantly weakened on his left side.
He went on to spend two months at TIRR Memorial Hermann and then progressed to nine months with its Challenge Program, where he received outpatient physical and occupational therapy and participated in group discussions with patients in similar situations.
"They told my wife I probably would never walk," LaTouche said. "I give all of the credit to the Lord."
The recovery process was a rough journey, he recalls, from the METROLift bus commutes to therapy sessions in southwest Houston to the struggle against discouragement.
He remembers reading a book by The Rev. Joel Osteen, his pastor at Lakewood Church, which fueled his fight.
"It's faith over fear," he said. "That's when I started walking."
LaTouche definitely was a fighter, said Shaun Smith, vocational coordinator for the Challenge Program at TIRR Memorial Hermann.
"Patrick was a great guy," Smith said. "He came in physically having a lot of deficits. Through his perseverance, he made some great strides. He was a great motivator."
LaTouche also credits his family members for their encouragement, including Belinda and their children, Krissy, Heather and Patrick III (Trey).
Local Advertising by PaperG