FHSD Teachers of the Visually Impaired go Above-and-Beyond for Students

Posted on 12/22/2020
Ms. Lexi Theis

Ms. Lexi Theis
, teacher of the visually impaired at John Weldon Elementary School, knew at a young age she wanted to teach. But it wasn’t until her pre-student teaching practicum that she pivoted into a visual impairment specialization.

“Watching materials be adapted and visual concepts become verbalized for students in-need, I was utterly amazed and completely hooked,” Ms. Theis said.

The ultimate goal of the Vision team at FHSD is to ensure students have equal access to learning opportunities as their peers, while also teaching them the skills necessary to encourage independence.

“It’s easy to be doubted as a person with a vision impairment. Research shows that losing your vision is the most feared sense to lose. I love how our students prove daily that with a little hard work and maybe a different approach, they can do exactly what their peers do – and sometimes even more efficiently,” Ms. Theis said.

“It’s important to instill grit in our students. They notice they may have to work harder to prove they can do things, but only because of everyone else's misunderstanding of what it is like to live with limited vision or without any vision,” she continued.

About 75% of people who are legally blind are unemployed or employed in an area that is below their abilities. As professionals in the field, Ms. Theis said it is an expectation that our students leave with not only the information from the core curriculum, but also experts in the Expanded Core Curriculum (ECC).

“I love any lesson that I know a student will take away and use for the rest of their lives!” she said. “I know the core curriculum is important, but to me it is just as essential that you can make your lunch for work every day and respond to your boss's email than remembering how to find the slope of a line.”

To achieve this, the team gets creative with lesson planning. Cue a recent microwave lesson with fifth grade student, Carter Johnson.

During the lesson, Ms. Theis and Carter made “homemade” chocolate covered pretzels in the microwave. Not only was it festive and special for Carter, but it was also an opportunity to learn microwave safety.

“It was great to see how Ms. Theis explained things to him,” said Ashley Waechter, administrative assistant for John Weldon Elementary. “I loved how she pointed out for him to ‘Find the number 5 button first and start there; by feeling for the center number because it normally feels different from the other numbers.’ This special moment meant a lot to me as the administrative assistant here at JWE to witness, but I am positive it made even more of an impact on Carter.”

“As far as cooking goes, we start with basic kitchen safety and organization and that eventually leads to students completing online grocery shopping orders for recipes they've found online to cook for their families. Other lessons that generalize to daily life include money management, cleaning and organization, social skills, interview skills, technology skills, etc.,” said Ms. Theis.

As a district, the Vision team of four – Ms. Theis,Mr. Kevin HollingerMs. Laura Gierer and Ms. Ann Cummins – serve around 45 students who qualify for vision services. Of that group, two are also certified orientation and mobility specialists (O&M).

“Selfishly, I believe this is one of the most rewarding fields in the sense of seeing your teaching make an impact,” Ms. Theis said. “Students grow wildly not only in their skills, but in their self-confidence. It’s the most amazing thing to watch a student grow in that manner!”

If you are interested in making your own positive impact in the world of blindness and low vision, download the app, "Be My Eyes." It is an app similar to Facetime where those with blindness or low vision can request quick assistance from a person who is sighted via video call.

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