Lila struggled with writing, then a teacher helped her bring her stories to life Lila Hoffa used to struggle to express herself in writing. But her third-grade teacher realized it wasn't a "typical" writing problem and helped Hoffa find a way to make her stories come to life.

Lila struggled to write, then a teacher discovered why and unlocked her creativity

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The project "My Unsung Hero" from Hidden Brain tells the stories of people whose kindness left a lasting impression. This week is Teacher Appreciation Week. And today, we bring you a story from 13-year-old Lila Hoffa, who remembers a special teacher from elementary school.

For as long as she can remember, Lila has struggled to express herself in writing. She says in her first years of school, her teachers didn't notice that anything was wrong. That changed when she met her third-grade teacher, Valerie Holmgren, who discovered that Lila had a learning disability called dysgraphia. So Lila's teachers and her parents had a meeting to figure out what to do next.

LILA: This was honestly quite terrifying because I was just a small child and all these people were there gathered around me, talking about me. And it was pretty scary. We were all sitting around a long table, and Mrs. Holmgren pulled out a computer and opened it to Google Docs and said that there was this cool thing that she wanted to show me. So she showed me how to open Speech-to-Text. And I did not quite understand what this was at first. Then she showed me that you talk to the computer, and it writes down what you're saying.

This was just an overwhelming moment for me because I realized all of the stories and the ideas that I had stuck in my head - there was an easy way to get them down onto paper and to be able to share them with the world. And I just threw my head back and said, I could write a thousand stories. It was just an amazing moment. And everybody seemed to be thinking, like, yes, this is going to work. Like, we've made a difference.

I still use Speech-to-Text daily. I use it to send messages. I use it to write essays in class. I use it to type up emails. And I wrote a story called "The Girl Who Couldn't Stop Reading, AKA Me." So thank you for noticing my potential and noticing that there was so much more to me and that it wasn't just the basic struggle that I was having. Not only did you notice the handwriting and help me get better at that, but you knew that there was so much inside my head that needed to get out.


FLORIDO: Lila Hoffa lives in Flagstaff, Ariz.

You can find more stories from "My Unsung Hero" wherever you get your podcasts. To share the story of your unsung hero, record a voice memo on your phone, and email it to


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