Meet mom of two, school principal and disability advocate Dr. Justine Green.
Justine was born with Atresia and Microtia. Microtia is a condition where the outer ear does not develop properly and Atresia is the absence of the ear canal, leaving her deaf in her left ear. Knowing she was different from birth, and boasting three reconstructive surgeries under her belt, Justine learned to read lips and worked hard through school. She used her disability as motivation instead of an excuse, and ultimately found her life’s purpose through these challenges.
Justine earned her Bachelor of Science in Elementary and Special Education from the University of Miami, a Master of Arts in Education, Policy and Social Analysis from Teachers College, Columbia University and her Doctorate in Education in Higher Education Leadership focusing on students with disabilities.
Justine is the author of Completely Me, a book about her own life and disability which has since turned into a series. The newest book, Completely Emme, is based on a little girl and her life with Cerebral Palsy. We chatted with Justine about this new book, motherhood and more – read on!
Tell us about Completely Emme.
Justine Green: Completely Emme is the second book of my award-winning “Completely Me” series. Each book is going to be a real friend with a new disability. This book introduces Emme, a friend of Justine’s with Cerebral Palsy. When some of the kids in the park point out her differences, she learns to stand up for herself and teach everyone an important lesson about acceptance. The story uses some of Emme’s own words to describe CP to others.
Completely Emme is a story about a little girl who is struggling with “being different” – why/how is she different?
Justine Green: In Emme’s case, she wear glasses, leg braces, and moves at her own pace. Children tend to say hurtful things when they do not understand differences. Everyone is unique and everyone’s body moves differently… but that’s ok!
Why is highlighting disabilities most important – especially now?
Justine Green: Highlighting that our differences make us special and that everyone is unique in their own ways is always important. When children are exposed to diverse characters (as seen in my series) and taught about differences in a relatable way, understanding, and tolerance comes quickly after.
What is your motivation for writing this second book?
Justine Green: I want to share stories of real children living with a disability. My hope is to introduce children around the world to friends who they can relate to, living and thriving as they are! Teachers, parents, grandparents, etc. should use this series as a fun, engaging tool to teach their children that everyone is perfect. I was reading “Completely Me” to my 3-year-old son last night and I stopped and asked “Do you think I need an ear?” And he said “No, because you are perfect just the way you are.” I teared up immediately. Young children are truly grasping the lessons embedded in the stories.
What are 3 things you hope your readers take away from Completely Emme?
Justine Green: I hope they know that their imperfections and differences are what make them perfect. That Emme is just like me and you, her body just moves differently and that’s ok! Also, to be kind to everyone because when we point out differences or mock someone, those experiences are hurtful and divisive. Speak to people with disabilities as regular people and introduce yourself, find commonalities, build friendships, include others!
How do you juggle it all – motherhood, teacher, award winning author?
Justine Green: It is definitely a juggle! I try to use my time as wisely as possible and be present with my children everyday. I wake up and get ready before the children wake up, work from 8:15am-5pm, make dinner, play with the kids, put them to sleep, shower, and then start working on the book series. What’s hardest to juggle is “me” time. I’m still working on that!
What is your favorite quote?
Justine Green: “Kindness is a language that the deaf can hear and the blind can see” – Mark Twain
Who are some female authors you look up to?
Justine Green: I grew up reading Judy Blume. I felt like her books were so relatable. Beverly Cleary, Emily Dickinson, Maya Angelou, and Julia Donaldson are all inspirational!
What advice can you share to other working women about starting a business?
Justine Green: It’s ok to ask for help or to outsource some things. If you need help making your business legal, use a legal team or company. Keep track of everything and organize your start-up costs and necessities. Stay focused on your goal. Starting a business is difficult, but hopefully the benefits outweigh the risks!
What is next for your series?
Justine Green: Next for my series is introducing the world to my brother, Matt, who has ADHD or Attention-Deficit / Hyperactivity Disorder. I think that there will be a large population of people around the world who will relate to his story. 1 in 11 kids are diagnosed with ADHD or 8.8% of the population under 17 years old. 3 million US cases per year (Chadd.org).