(PHOENIX) Traditional schools are not the only ones facing difficulties in staffing these days, those schools that serve special needs students are as well.
It’s especially crucial for visually impaired children to have enough in-person support so one school is now training its own would-be teachers.
“Teacher shortages are happening all over the country and particularly in our very narrow niche of visual impairment,“ said Jared Kittelson, CEO of Foundation for Blind Children.
But as Kittelson explains, the head of the Foundation for Blind Children, in Phoenix, Arizona, they’re working to solve that problem.
Teaming up with Arizona State University, they’re providing college students who want to become teachers for the visually impaired hands-on experience.
Ivan Santiago and Cameron Smith are both wrapping up their student work and say the exposure they’ve gotten is unparalleled.
“This is a really valuable experience, getting to work here and also take our classes here and intern here, it’s not the same at all,” said Cameron Smith, Special Ed Teacher. “It’s just like being in a classroom and learning about students, because a textbook visual impairment is … it just doesn’t do justice for what it can look like in different kids.”
“It’s an underserved population, less than one percent of individuals have a vision impairment, said Ivan Santiago, Special Ed Teacher. “For me personally I had teachers in my life that made a big difference and made me successful so I wanted to give that back to the students that I interact with.”
But perhaps one of the most important things these TVI’s, short for teachers of the visually impaired, are learning, how to bring a student’s whole team on board.
“So the TVI’s role isn’t just about the one to one experience with the student, it really encompasses the entire system,” said Kittelson.
It could be working with a fourth grade teacher to help teach them how the assistive technology works, or it could be basic accessibility to a power-point presentation, or something as simple as a seating arrangement.
“Our job is not to teach the curriculum, our job is to make sure they access the curriculum,” said Santiago. “So those skills will also translate when they graduate high school and go on to college, or vocational school. In that sense if you make them successful where they can access the information that will just carry along the rest of their life.”
Accessing a world that may have seemed inaccessible if not for these future teachers,