For Lindsay Lee, MEd ’19, teaching students with visual impairments just kind of fell into her lap.
There was an opening for a vision paraprofessional and braille transcriptionist in the Mat-Su Borough School District, a large district roughly the size of West Virginia, in Lee’s home state of Alaska. No experience was necessary for the job because frankly, few people in that part of Alaska had any experience teaching braille.
Lee applied and landed the job, quickly becoming aware that there is a shortage of teachers
of students with visual impairments (TVIs) throughout the United States. The few TVIs in Alaska – those who were teaching braille to Lee herself so she could in turn teach it to visually impaired students – suggested she consider getting her master’s degree in TVI.
Using the Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired (AER) website
, Lee found Salus University was one of the accredited institutions that had a TVI program.
“The more I looked into Salus, I could tell that it was an excellent program,” she said. “It’s really focused on getting its students the best education they can get.”
Salus is very much aware of the shortage of braille teachers. According to Kerry Lueders, MS, COMS, TVI, CLVT
, who directs the University’s TVI program, “we have been addressing this TVI shortage for several decades now. The general public just isn’t fully aware of the TVI career option, but for those who do, and enter the TVI program, they are oftentimes offered a job even before they graduate. It’s a great field to get into because there is always a need.”
“Many people outside of the field think that braille is a language,” said Emily Vasile, MAT, TVI, MS, CLVT
, faculty member of the University’s Department of Blindness and Low Vision Studies (BLVS). “However, that is one of the biggest misconceptions about this code. Students who are braille readers learn to read this code, made up of six embossed dot configurations, as early as their sighted peers would learn to read print. At Salus, students in the TVI program take several courses that prepare them to not only understand braille and how to write it, but also how to teach others to read braille.”
“And, being a TVI is more than just about teaching braille,” added Lueders. “It’s about helping to develop the independence of tomorrow’s youth.”
Even though she could have had her pick of jobs across the country, Lee chose to stay in Alaska because she already had a job waiting for her at home after she graduated in May 2019. The school district where she is employed has three TVIs, including Lee, who teach a total of about 70 students throughout the district.
One of the things Lee really appreciated about the Salus BLVS program was the five-week summer component
that afforded her and her classmates the opportunity to practice non-visual skills.
“All the classes were really hands-on, which was – now that I’m a teacher and working with students – really helpful,” said Lee. “There were classes where we were under sleep shade (blindfolded) and we practiced different techniques on each other. That was helpful to have the experience as the person who was under simulation, and it was helpful to have the experience of teaching someone who was under simulation.” Plus, TVI students learn about, from and with students from other programs, as well as take classes taught by professors from different disciplines. “We are fortunate to be in an interprofessional environment and enlist the expertise of our colleagues,” said Lueders.
As for her overall experience, Lee has nothing but high praise for what she learned at Salus.
“All the professors are able to make their classes focused and practical and they expect people to really want to go into the field, people who are passionate about teaching and who want to enrich the lives of those who are blind and visually impaired and make sure they get the skills to be successful,” she said.
As an added bonus, Salus currently offers partial tuition grant funding and stipends to eligible students who enroll in the TVI program. Those interested in pursuing graduate education in TVI are encouraged to apply by November 27, 2019
for enrollment in the spring 2020 semester. For more information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org