Why I love being a teacher of students with visual impairments (TVI)

Once Victoria Romano experienced the magic of working in the classroom at Philadelphia’s Overbrook School for the Blind, she knew she’d found her calling.

Victoria Romano with three of her students and Overbrook’s school psychologist, Danielle Sychterz.

Victoria Romano with three of her students and Overbrook’s school psychologist, Danielle Sychterz.

 

As a 22-year-old soon-to-be graduate from Temple University, I knew I was destined for the world of special education. I had always dreamed of being a special education teacher; however, it wasn’t until I found Overbrook School for the Blind that I realized how my life would change.

During my student teaching seminar, and as one of my last assignments before graduation, I had to contact a local school or agency from a list created by my professor to complete a question-and-answer assignment. As luck would have it, I randomly selected Overbrook School for the Blind (OSB).

“I always say that as TVIs, we can create all the lesson plans in the world, but sometimes the most valuable lessons are the ones we don’t anticipate.”

Two months and two interviews later, the school hired me as a classroom teacher in the OSB high school program, and I began teaching functional academics to a dynamic group of teens. Exploring the instructional approaches of teaching functional academics, I was able to use my special education background. I was teaching a group of five students with five different eye conditions, numerous additional disabilities, and the most incredible zest for life. I was adhering to the Pennsylvania Core Standards while making adaptations to the curriculum by infusing braille instruction, life skills, and recreation and leisure into it.

In August 2014, I graduated with a master’s in education and a Teacher of the Visually Impaired certification. I feel humbled by the countless opportunities I have had to collaborate with Overbrook’s families, administrators, orientation and mobility specialists, therapists, other TVIs, our school psychologist, and other members of the individual education plan (IEP) team to create well-rounded, yet individualized programming for our students. It is the role of the TVI to collect input from all members of the IEP team, and this has given me the opportunity to analyze the needs of our students through collaboration. One of the parts of the process I value most is working with our students’ family members to bridge instruction into their homes and ensure carryover of the skills my students are developing.

 
The Overbrook School for the Blind was the first school for the blind in America.

The Overbrook School for the Blind was the first school for the blind in America.

I have been in the field and teaching at Overbrook for 7 years, and have never had two days that were the same. My days are filled with "teachable moments": success, the occasional curveball, and sometimes trying to accomplish the impossible. I always say that as TVIs, we can create all the lesson plans in the world, but sometimes the most valuable lessons are the ones we don’t anticipate. As this new school year unfolds, I think about the upcoming months as a whole and then brainstorm short- and long-term goals for my students and for me. I consider the implications of various learning styles, as well as the vision support needed for the “big picture,” to make the time I have with my students as productive as possible.

Teaching students with visual impairments means giving my students access to education and the world around them. The staff at Overbrook School for the Blind has a vision of educating our students: Our goal is to help our students realize their fullest selves and to provide them the greatest opportunity to experience active and fulfilling lives.


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