A native of Montana, Jamie Maffit grew up surrounded by the great outdoors and everything illustrated in country tunes written about small hometowns. When researching undergraduate institutions, she decided to pursue a bachelor’s degree at the University of Montana, double majoring in Sociology and French. Upon graduating, she spent one year as an AmeriCorps volunteer working closely with underserved teens at a middle school just outside of Portland, Oregon. “This experience provided me with countless learning opportunities, but the most significant realization was that I enjoyed teaching, but outside the traditional classroom setting,” she commented.
Before long, Ms. Maffit moved from a small town on the west coast to the big city of Philadelphia, where she observed a dramatic shift in the population she was accustomed to working with. “I learned I appreciated working with adult learners in a one-on-one setting, teaching relevant life skills,” she said. With this in mind, she decided to return to graduate school in pursuit of a degree in Orientation and Mobility. This discipline, which focuses on individualized instruction along with safe and independent movement and travel, was the perfect blend of her skills. After completing her master’s degree in Orientation and Mobility Therapy, she was employed at The Bureau of Blindness and Visual Impairment in the Philadelphia metro area as an itinerant instructor. “I loved working in Philadelphia, as it provided the opportunity to teach what I learned in graduate school including indoor, outdoor residential, metropolitan area and public transportation travel,” she noted.
In 2011, Dr. Audrey Smith reached out to Ms. Maffit regarding a coordinator position in the Orientation and Mobility program at Salus University
. It was then she decided to transition from direct service to the world of academia. “The more I learned about the position, the more excited I became about the possibilities of teaching future blindness and low vision rehabilitation professionals,” she said. Within two years, she was promoted to assistant professor in the department of Blindness and Low Vision Studies.
In addition to her assistant professor role, Ms. Maffit provides Low Vision Rehabilitation Therapy as a Certified Low Vision Therapist at the William Feinbloom Vision Rehabilitation Center
housed at The Eye Institute. She works closely with low vision optometric interns who are studying how to evaluate patients’ vision and the referral process for rehabilitation services. “The end result is having a patient leave not only with the appropriate powered magnifier to read the newspaper again, but understanding how to use the device and their remaining vision to maximize function, efficiency and improve their overall quality of life,” she commented.
She contributes much of her success to her parents, former instructors and current colleagues, and Mr. Peterson, her high school math teacher, who not only taught her algebra and calculus, but that teaching can be enjoyable. Because of this, she believes in the importance of relevant and engaging teaching which incorporates students’ perspectives and contributions. “I’ve found that students are motivated when they experience the connection between theory and application to practice,” she remarked.
When asked about her most coveted piece of advice, she noted, “ My parents have a plaque hanging in their kitchen that reads, ‘Life is all about how you handle Plan B,’ I’ve learned that while we may have a plan or path in mind, our journey may not always unfold as we anticipate or expect.” To Jamie Maffit, the ability to respond to inconceivable changes with flexibility and purpose is what builds character and allows one to “recognize the humanity in ourselves and others.”