Braille Monitor                                                 January 2011

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Teacher of Tomorrow Program: Partnerships for Success

by Rosy Carranza

Kelly Newsom begins carving a pumpkin under sleepshades.From the Editor: Although many of us talk about school pride when we relate our experiences in elementary and secondary education, we know that often what is more important than our school is the teachers who gave us something special. The system may be less important than the committed professional who offers a love of learning, a love of children, and an unshakable belief in his or her ability to impart the magic transformation that can occur when knowledge, confidence, and determination are joined in pursuit of a goal. To help train teachers who will bring blind students this passion and belief, the National Federation of the Blind has created the Teacher of Tomorrow Program. Here is what Rosy Carranza, manager of program services for our Affiliate Action Team, has to say about it:

This spring we began the search for the initial cohort of participants for the first-ever NFB Teacher of Tomorrow Program. The program mission is to connect enthusiastic students who are preparing to teach blind children with the support, resources, and positive blindness philosophy of the National Federation of the Blind. This partnership represents a unique opportunity for growth and innovation. Emerging teachers and the organized blind movement will work jointly to provide blind students a high-quality education that draws on proven professional practice from the vast expertise and mentorship available through the organized blind movement.

Mark Riccobono (left) explains the safe use of the chain saw to Oluyomi Koya.Dozens of students competed for a spot in the 2010 cohort. The sixteen applicants who demonstrated the most enthusiasm, passion, and readiness were offered a position in the program. All of these students bring a unique blend of talents, interests, and competencies that they will use to transform the educational experiences of their students. Importantly, they also recognize that their teaching can support the work of the National Federation of the Blind and that together we can serve as a catalyst for systemic change to improve the lives of countless blind people.

The Teacher of Tomorrow Program consists of several in-person workshops, online mentoring opportunities, and participation in various NFB events. Our first session in September introduced the teachers to many Federation leaders who provided accounts of their own educational journeys. Aside from holding candid discussions about blindness philosophy, the first session addressed blindness technology and methods for adapting the curricula, and even taught the students to use a chainsaw while wearing blindfolds. During the second session in November the teachers became a part of our fall NFB Youth Leadership Academy. This Academy brought forty-two high school students to our headquarters. The teachers spent the entire weekend learning about blindness attitudes and blindness education from blind students themselves. We have many other experiences in the works for Teacher of Tomorrow students, including attending our car demonstration in Daytona, joining us on Capitol Hill during Washington Seminar, and attending national convention in Orlando, Florida.

Kathy Michielsen (center) step dances with students in the Youth Leadership Academy.We are thrilled to welcome these talented and passionate educators to our organization and are dedicated to supporting them as they enter the field of blindness education. Here are the names, current states, and university affiliations of our 2010 Teacher of Tomorrow cohort:

Kina Blackburn, Washington, Portland State University
Alethea Chisholm, Pennsylvania, Salus University
Cindi Eskew, Louisiana, Louisiana Tech University
Aaron Fallon, Louisiana, Louisiana Tech University
Krystal Gable, Virginia, Missouri State University
Brooke Jensen, New York, University of Louisville
Grace Katolas, Montana, University of Northern Colorado
Oluyomi Koya, Pennsylvania, Salus University
Neil Maxwell, Georgia, West Virginia University
Tara McCarthy, Ohio, Ohio State University
Kathy Michielsen, Washington, Portland State University
Kelly Newsom, Missouri, Missouri State University
Gillian Pilcher, Virginia, George Mason University  
Mary Robinson, Nebraska, University of Northern Colorado
Katie Russell, Maryland, Salus University
Megan Rutschilling, Ohio, Ohio State University

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