My name is Jóhanna Birna Bjartmarsdóttir. I'm an Icelandic student at the University of Florida who is majoring in Education Science, minoring in Health Promotion, and dual specializing in Educational Psychology and Research, and Educational Technology. I aim to create a health literacy curriculum for K-12 education and create the first world-class online courses in Iceland. I'm also an advocate for students with dyslexia, ADHD, and autism, and you can find my conference presentations and interviews here.
Although I excelled in math, soccer, tae kwon do and piano, my inability to keep up with subjects that required reading loomed over my future prospects. Reading was more than hard; it was a unique hell because I never truly read stories, only individual words. Then, at age 9, a pain in my legs slowly spiraled into an all-consuming illness, beginning a decade of medical treatments. By age 15, I was completely bedridden and lost everything that gave my life meaning: sports, music, school and friends. I was in a hopeless, constant free fall. The prospect of finishing high school, let alone university, was a distant fantasy. One day, at my wits' end of boredom and loneliness, I decided to read a book on my kindle. But unlike my previous attempts, I loved the experience because I finally started reading stories instead of individual words. The joy this combination of words brought me was immeasurable. Since then, I have obtained my GED, SAT and TOEFL, traveled, climbed mountains, read 400 books and completed accelerated online college courses with a 3.98 GPA. My doctors believe that my recovery was a miracle, but this was no miracle; I fought for this and was just getting started. Persevering, fighting fiercely to reclaim my life and working to excel in academics has left me inspired to dedicate my life's work to developing a health literacy curriculum that enables students to make informed decisions, lead healthy lives and overcome adversities.