Nathan Levin’s journey to Shaker
Heights and through its public
schools has been exceptional, in every
sense of the word.
Nathan’s story begins in 1997 in
his native China, when his parents,
Mark and Estee Levin, travelled there to
adopt him. Mark Levin still carries the
picture of baby Nathan he’d been sent
beforehand in his wallet. His future son
is seated, full of baby charm, and wearing
his still-unmistakable smile. At their
first meeting, the Levins delighted in
learning Nathan was as pictured: a happy,
healthy boy. Nathan had even earned the
nickname “The Little Emperor” because
he would pat his belly when he was
hungry. “It was obvious to everyone that
Nathan was special,” Mark says.
But by the time Nathan was twoand
a-half, there were signs that he
wasn’t developing like other typical
children. For one thing, he wasn’t
walking. Although the pediatrician
insisted he was fine, the Levins took him
to a new doctor, who ordered an MRI.
They learned that Nathan had a kind
of brain damage called periventricular
leukomalacia, or PVL, which, in
Nathan’s case, doctors speculated was
caused by a difficult childbirth. “Since
that diagnosis, we realized the future
would be difficult,” Mark says.
To determine the starting point
for Nathan’s future, the Levins brought
him for an evaluation by a school
psychologist with the Shaker Heights
Schools. “She announced that he’d scored
a zero on the test,” Mark recalls candidly.
He understood the results weren’t
an indictment on Nathan’s potential.
Rather, it was a recognition that he
qualified for and would receive special
education support from Shaker Schools
Pupil Services, a department with a
longstanding reputation for excellence in
serving students with disabilities.
SHAKER LIFE | FALL 2017 47