Teachers go back to school to educate children with vision loss

The Bayh College of Education at Indiana State features an exciting opportunity to educators seeking to teach children with exceptional needs. Known as the Visual Impairment Licensure program, graduate students who undertake the program will be certified to work with students with visual impairments in just two years.

“Once a teacher gets this endorsement, they are certified to work with kids who are either blind or have low vision,” said William Powell, who teaches a course on braille as a part of the program. “The other positive is for the children statewide, both in residential and public schools; there are more teachers who know how to teach them.”

Enrolled students take online classes but are also required to attend face-to-face sessions and weekend seminars. The new skills that graduate students learn from the program are valuable, but those considering taking it should know that the program is very rigorous. However, instructors like Powell strive to make sure that their students remain inspired.

“I work heavily with the students to give lots of feedback and encouragement, as they will then pass their skills onto others,” Powell said.

The program is provided by Promoting Achievement for Students with Sensory Loss (PASS) grant which is funded by the Indiana Department of Education. The program is the only one of its kind in the state to offer licensure to teach children with visual impairments. Marcee Wilburn, the project coordinator for PASS, sees the licensure as an excellent opportunity.

“This licensure can make teachers more marketable, because this certification is something that not many people have,” Wilburn said. “There is a shortage of teachers of students who are blind or have low vision. Districts and co-ops are looking to fill this void with individuals who are qualified to work with this population of students.”

Thirty-five teachers are currently enrolled in the program. While the numbers of those enrolled are small, the difference these teachers can make once they receive their licensure is large. These teachers have the potential to make a genuine difference in the life of a student with visual impairment and help ensure that student’s success for the future.