Inch by inch. A phrase we all know, one that has been relegated to a common cliché. But no matter how common, or how rote it might seem to many of us, for Jordan Hout inch by inch is a motto and mantra that he applies to every aspect of his journey through rehabilitation. It is an equal measure of strength and confidence, a reminder that forward progress is continually moving and that every small bit of that progress is meaningful in many ways.


Canton is a small town of around 3,000 people in southeastern South Dakota. Through Canton runs an undercurrent of optimism and connectedness, as their Can Live. Can Dream. Can Do! motto highlights. It should come as no surprise to anyone that one of the many positive forces in the community is Jordan. As part of the faculty of Canton High School, Jordan wears many hats. He’s a chemistry and physical science teacher, dean of students, and the assistant head coach for the girls’ varsity basketball team. He’s the kind of teacher whom students look forward to classes with, the kind who will always have the best interests of his students and their futures at the front of his mind.

What happened to Jordan in October 2022 practically shouldn’t have happened, yet it did. It was a bright Saturday morning, the perfect fall weather for a jog around the neighborhood, embracing the weekend with focus. While out on that jog, Jordan collapsed, having a left-sided stroke. The stroke affected the right side of his body, limiting movement and inducing overall weakness. Equally devastating, Jordan’s stroke resulted in a condition called aphasia, meaning that while able to form complex thoughts and sentences in his mind, there was great difficulty in being able to verbally express those thoughts.

Though the road ahead was lengthy and would be difficult to navigate, Jordan adopted his mantra, a pledge to himself that he wouldn’t give up the fight and would press forward.


After admitting to QLI in December 2022, Jordan’s work and dedication weren’t just confined to his daily sessions with clinicians but extended outside of them.

“Our goals when assessing clients for speech programs is to see what strengths they present, what strategies might already be in use, and then build from there,” says speech pathologist Zoey Devney. “Aphasia can be very frustrating when the thought expressed isn’t coming across, and during his assessment, Jordan was using multiple modalities to communicate.” When the words were difficult to express, Jordan would utilize gestures, facial expressions, and drawings to get his message across. For many with aphasia, communicative barriers can be very frustrating, and while Jordan felt these frustrations, they did not impede his progress, instead inspiring him to dig deeper and keep trying. For months, Jordan met with Devney multiple times per day to tackle his aphasia.


By April 2023, Jordan was walking from session to session across campus without the use of a cane, ambulating with only a brace on his right knee. Similarly, his work with Devney progressed greatly.


“How’re the words coming along?” Devney asks during one of their morning sessions.

“Good,” says Jordan, nodding. “Inch by inch.”

“Let’s run through the alphabet and the flashcards.” Jordan reaches into his backpack and grabs a laminated sheet with every letter of the alphabet printed large on it. Beside is the group of flashcards, one for each letter.

Jordan begins to read off the letters of the alphabet in a monotone voice. As he reaches ‘F,’ he begins to stumble, verbally, confusing ‘f’ for ‘g.’ He shakes his head, noticing the mistake immediately, and begins again, though he makes another error. “Try it with the tune,” Devney suggests.

Jordan begins singing the ABCs in the tune that everyone knows. He gets through it nearly errorless. Where just a moment before, errors were made starting within the first six letters, now Jordan confidently makes it through the entire alphabet, all with just the change of a simple tune being fixed within his mind. He sees this progress clearly and gives a little chuckle as if the introduction of the tune is something fascinating, which it surely is.

He does this again a couple more times, before both he and Devney move on to the flashcards. This time it takes longer to get through, but the tune is a good fallback. On the back of each letter’s flashcard are examples of the letter in use with all its phonetical pronunciations. “A” for “apple,” “able,” or “about.” Jordan cycles through the flashcards four times each, with each pass smoothing away many errors from the previous ones, building a solid foundation of repetitions.


“How about crossing guard duty?” The mouse cursor is poised above the highlight tab, ready to change the question to a yellow or red shade.

Besides the computer, Jordan stifles a chuckle. “No,” he laughs. “No.” Speech pathologist Zoey Bertsch highlights the section red—a no-go for activity options. Bertsch’s work with Jordan greatly compliments Devney’s. The two Zoeys work as one.

“A big step of Jordan’s transition back to Canton involves capitalizing on opportunities to practice and hone functional communication,” says Bertsch. When meeting daily, Jordan and Bertsch work to explore what some volunteering opportunities might look like for him. While Jordan won’t be returning to teaching quite yet, his days ahead in Canton will be very busy, assisting in summer basketball camps, and helping with driver’s education classes, all the while putting into practice the communicative skills that he has spent many months rebuilding.

Immersion is key to learning. By practicing these skills in the “real-world” environment, Jordan’s therapists are rebuilding pathways in his brain. Bertsch and Jordan head out to a local Dave & Buster’s. Jordan ordered food, and navigated conversation with wait staff, consistently adding to the strong communicative foundation that his sessions with Devney and Bertsch afforded.


To say the community of Canton rallied around Jordan would be almost an understatement. Throughout his recovery, Jordan maintained a Caring Bridge blog, with dozens of individuals sure to comment on every update. Anticipation for Jordan’s discharge trip back home to Canton was palpable by May 2023. At the graduation ceremony of Canton High School, the faculty announced that Jordan won the Teacher of the Year Award for the district. When accepting the award, Jordan thanked his support system, reading aloud prepared sentences with confidence.

It was consistent work, patience, and dedication that got Jordan to that spot on the stage of the graduation ceremony. Jordan, as the town motto illustrates, certainly has the can-do attitude to propel him confidently into the future.