Berry looks back on students' visions
THURS. | 02-17-22 | FEATURES
The English department is full of many students with different experiences and abilities. Teachers accommodate students, helping them in any way possible. They also learn from their students' experiences and are inspired by their students' aspirations to learn. English teacher Julie Berry is a product of this experience after teaching blind and visually impaired students.
Berry was approached by a counselor at Rose, who informed her she would be teaching a visually impaired student this semester. Berry took action to accommodate the student in her classroom.
“I had a meeting with the student's mom letting her know the challenges and how we can meet the needs of the student,” Berry said.
Berry taught two students around four to six years ago with visual disabilities. One of them had partial sight and one was fully blind. She taught these two students in English I Honors.
At the beginning of this process, Berry received help and recommendations of strategies she could use for these students.
“I worked with an individual from the county office who’d been assigned to that student and was very helpful,” Berry said. “[We made] braille copies of assignments for that student and [they] helped me put things in the correct format so that he could see with a super large font or with a magnifying program.”
A magnifying program is a software that interfaces with a
Photo by Ava Alger
computer's graphical output to present enlarged screen content. The magnifying program can help visually impaired students with tasks such as reading standard print and viewing a presentation.
When teaching students with visual disabilities, Berry had factors to consider while planning lessons or the classroom setup in order to meet the needs of these students.
“I did have to take into consideration testing," Berry said. "Such as if I needed to modify the test so that the format was going to be more conducive for something that the student could read.”
Berry not only had to make adjustments when planning classes ; she also had to make adjustments in the classroom, making sure everything was modified and in the right place.
“I had made sure the student knew where everything was placed in the room and allowed the student to become familiar with the classroom environment and not change up anything such as seating or the location of supplies,” Berry said. “[I’m] also being aware that rolling chairs or anything isn’t in the way for that student.”
To accommodate those two students Berry implemented protocols to make the classroom run smoother for them.
“I typically keep visually impaired students closer to me in the classroom so that I can assist them if their programs on the computers would buffer or default,” Berry said.
Having to make these changes was not hard for Berry. In a way, the students also inspired her.
“I had one visually impaired student who described what being blind was actually like as a task and he independently shared it with his classmates,” Berry said. “This was not something I asked him to do; he did it so they could understand the challenges he faced.”
Even though Berry was inspired by the students' actions, there are some differences between the two students and how they had to be taught.
“With my student who had partial sight, the font had to be very large and he was able to locate the materials online so that he could use the magnifying program option,” Berry said.
But for Berry’s fully blind student, things were different.
“I wanted to make sure that I was giving him the materials that he needed such as the braille; he was also able to type on a laptop where the keys were in braille,” Berry said. “The student also used a program where it transferred what he was [writing] in a way that was readable for me.”
There might have been some differences between the students, but there was overall positive energy in the classroom.
“What I witnessed was a collaborative environment where students felt comfortable and wanted to make sure that these students were cared for and wanted what was best for them,” Berry said.
Along with the classroom having an overall positive impact, it was a valuable learning experience for Berry as well.
“It's given me a separate set of skills that I wouldn't have had otherwise,” Berry said. “It's just something that's not taught in a collegiate environment and you do not acquire those skills until you have that particular student in your class.”