The end of each school year brings a time to reflect on those teachers who have made a big impact on our children. We often hear organizations like the National Education Association recognize their teacher of the year. Candidates usually demonstrate some quality that matches the trendy concerns in education like having a welcoming, inclusive environment in which to learn. Those who follow such things read of students’ appraisals and previous students’ glowing appreciation.
As much as having a diverse classroom gets a lot of press today, especially in the public school environs, many teachers of skills which benefit students with disabilities goes unnoticed. That’s a big reason behind Braill Institute’s recognition of its teacher of the year. Often candidates have built relationships with their students that go beyond just subject matter since the skills they teach benefit them regardless of what’s learned in class. Example: The itinerant teacher who meets with parents of a totally blind first grader. She teaches this child braille while helping the parents understand the places in which braille is in use, not just at school but all over restroom doors and elevator buttons, museum signage and displays, and so much more. She helps run the meeting where the child’s individual education plan (IEP) gets hashed out each year. And, oh, by the way, she helps the child strengthen his hands to read pages of those bumps in six dot cells that make literacy tactile.
This year’s Braille Institute teacher of the year is April Makley from Grand Rapids, Michigan. You can read about her in Braille Institute’s blog post. To be sure she was also recognized for her efforts by her own school district as making a difference for students who are blind. Check out Fox 17, WXMI’s coverage in the Grand Rapids, MI area as they featured a segment commending Ms. Makley’s influence on her students, helping them be boldly blind.