In October 2017 Rena Armwood was named Spectacular Magazine 2017 Woman of the Year – Lifetime Achievement. In the past, Lifetime Achievement award recipients have been more mature women. The Selection Committee believed that Rena Armwood was deserving of the award based on what she has overcome in her less than four decades of life. Rena is now on the road to a whole new level of achievement. Learn more about Rena Armwood in the article below that was published in Oct. 2017.
A near fatal car accident could not kill the spirit or will power of Rena Armwood, 37, of Mebane, North Carolina. Her love for children and teaching continues to motivate her each day to inspire others to live life to the fullest.
The Durham native teaches physical education and health at R.N. Harris Integrated Core Knowledge Elementary in her hometown. Armwood is also a proud graduate of North Carolina Central University where she earned a Bachelors of Science degree in Recreation Administration.
She has been teaching for eight years, but the last four years have been in a wheelchair since the car accident happened on March 8, 2014.
She uses her disability to encourage her students and peers to do their best in everything they do. She talks openly with her students about the accident. Armwood teaches them about the human skeletal and nervous system to demonstrate how she was impacted by the car accident. She explains how she has to use her upper body and arms to complete everyday activities.
Armwood’s dedication to children proves to them that they can reach any goal they want to achieve no matter what challenges they face in life. “If our minds still work, we can make a difference,” she tells them. “If I can teach in a wheelchair…y’all can do anything you put your minds to.”
Armwood is committed to the long term health of young people. “I am responsible for ensuring our youth are on a path to a healthy lifestyle,” she said. She teaches her students about how their bodies function and develop, showing them various ways to stay healthy and active through nutrition and exercise. After a year in rehabilitation, she returned to her profession with a new outlook on life.
She decided to use the accident to inspire her students and others to show them that limitations do not have to stop them from living their dreams. “I had to be creative in the way I teach students how to use their bodies and maintain a healthy lifestyle without the use of my legs,” she said.
The mother-daughter duo now share Hall of Fame achievement awards in sports at North Carolina Central University. Rena Armwood was first inducted into the NCCU Hall of Fame in 2004, holding the prestigious award for her CIAA tournaments wins in softball and volleyball.
Armwood still has a few more personal goals of her own.
She used to coach girls softball, volleyball and basketball at the Durham School of the Arts High School. Her girls have been begging her to return to coaching the teams since she recuperated from the accident.
Although she is not quite back to coaching yet, she is working toward it every day. She is steadily gaining more and more confidence to take on the challenges of coaching as she finds new, innovative ways to communicate her directions from a wheelchair.
Armwood offers three reasons why she was motivated to go back to teaching. First, she wanted her son, Xavier McQueen, who is now age 11, to see his mother be independent again. She wanted him to see her be able to take care of herself, be able to do simple tasks like dress herself. “I wanted him to see me be able to play again … travel again.”
Her next motivation was her mother, who tirelessly took care of her after the accident, faithfully taking her to all of her doctor’s appointments and rehabilitation visits. Armwood learned how to drive a car with specially designed hand gears just to relieve her mother of taking her to all of those appointments.
Finally the principal at the elementary school was holding the P.E. position especially for her.
Armwood knows that she is blessed to still be here. She said many people think she is paralyzed from the waist down, but she is really paralyzed from the chest down. With arm strengthening and conditioning, she is now able to take care of herself and do most day-to-day tasks on her own.
Armwood is thankful for the strong support team who helped her get through her recovery process, including the school staff. She also acknowledges her father, Aaron Armwood, for his continuous support.
She said he took off time from his job to help her with cooking, take her places she needed to go, including therapy appointments, and bringing her late Aunt Rayonette Williams to her house to keep her company.
Armwood looks forward to a long, successful career in education. She is known for showing her students tough love, but they know that she genuinely cares for them. She teaches them to respect one another and to be fair and kind. “Just be positive,” she added.
Armwood’s number one mission is teaching her students to always try, even if they feel they are not the best at certain activities.”I will take effort over anything,” she said.
She also strives to make learning in school fun, explaining that she might spin around in her wheel chair or pop a “wheely” for her students from time to time.
Armwood is an active member of Antioch Baptist Church in Durham. In her spare time, Armwood enjoys relaxing and spending time with her friends and family members. She enjoys going out to eat at restaurants to a simple family cookout, noting that she is grateful for all of her loved ones.
In May 2018 Spectacular Magazine will recognize the brightest innovators and game-changers between the ages of 18-35 who are transforming the world in their own way with the inaugural Spectacular Magazine Millennial of the Year Awards in the categories of Arts, Activism, Athletics, Beauty, Community Service, Education, Entrepreneurship, Health & Fitness, Public Figure & Technology.