Brad Wing was a teacher who gave hope to parents of children with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Disorder and headaches to his principals.
"Brad did what he thought was right and asked questions later," said Amy Sward, principal at North Education Center in New Hope.
Wing was the cool teacher who would bring in pop for the students, knowing it was sometimes the only thing that would calm them down, said Sward.
"I had to tell him that it wasn't OK to do it for his students and not the others in the school," Sward said. "If I had chocolate on my desk, I knew that Brad had put it there thinking he might get in trouble."
Wing understood that children and teenagers with FASD might not remember a concept they have already been taught or apply an experience to a new situation, said Sara Messelt, executive director of Minnesota Organization on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. FASD can result when the child's mother drinks during pregnancy, affecting a fetus' central nervous system and the child's ability to learn.
It makes it hard to build on a previous day's teaching, but Wing found a way to bring joy and humor in one of the most challenging classrooms any teacher could have, Messelt said. People often assume that people with a learning disability have no sense of humor, but Wing would share stories and jokes to anyone with an attention deficit disorder.
Wing spent more than 30 years as a special education teacher. From 2006 until 2011, he worked in District 287, which serves kids with the highest needs in the western metro, said Linda Rees, liaison for the district. He was instrumental in creating a program in District 287 designed to serve students with an FASD diagnosis.
He never wanted an administrator position, Rees said, preferring to work with children and parents. Still, he frequently volunteered to teach other teachers and administrators in the Upper Midwest.
"Sometimes, he was the only teacher who ever found the right combination of technology, materials and strategies to help unlock the barriers to a student learning," Rees said. "He never gave up on a student, no matter what the intense behavior or learning challenges."
Tanya Weinmeyer of Lakeville describes Wing as "magnificent." Until Weinmeyer's son went into Wing's program, he was not able to attend public school full-time. He had been through seven programs before entering Wing's.
"Before I met Brad, I was scared to even have hope," she said. With Wing's help, Weinmeyer's son entered public school as a full-time student and is now reading several years above grade level.
Wing explained to Weinmeyer, as he did to all parents whose children he taught, that children with FASD who misbehave do so because of an inability to communicate what they want, not out of spite.
Wing's son Josh, 35, of Shoreview said that his dad loved helping students but didn't talk much about it. "What he did was never about him. It was about the people," Josh Wing said.
Wing understood that it was important to be on the same level as a child, whether it was crawling into bed with his grandkids to read them a book or focusing on a person's strengths instead of weaknesses, said his son.
Wing, who was 60 when he died after a yearlong illness, is survived by Jan, his wife of 40 years, sons Josh of Shoreview and Simon of Morristown, N.J., four grandchildren, his mother, Beverly, in Worthington, Minn., and sister Becca, also of Worthington.
A memorial service will be on Dec. 8 from 1 to 4 p.m. at North Education Center in New Hope. The tribute begins at 2 p.m.