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2015 Teacher of the Year Finalist Discusses What It's Like to Be Blind

2015 Teacher of the Year Finalist Discusses What It's Like to Be Blind

Teaching high school students can be tough, but teaching them blind? That's what it's like for Kathy Nimmer, Indiana English Teacher and finalist for 2015 National Teacher of the Year, who has been teaching for more than two decades.

According to an article on The Washington Post, Nimmer "was in third grade when she was diagnosed with the rare condition that took her sight by the time she was a teenager. Teachers took on an outsized role in her life as her vision deteriorated, with one teaching her to play the piano and another helping her dissect a frog, learning the anatomy of internal organs by touch."

“Those teachers became much more than figures in front of the classroom," Nimmer said in the article. "They became very intertwined in my growth as a person and in my dealing with the grief of losing vision slowly. They wove themselves into my heart, and I wanted to do that. I wanted to do that for someone else.”

According to the article, "it hasn’t been easy. Early on, Nimmer nearly quit as she struggled to maintain control of her classroom. She has described her first few years at Harrison High in West Lafayette, Ind., as 'one continuous haunting nightmare.'"

“Students slipped quietly out of my classroom, teachers didn’t speak to me, parents didn’t support my decisions, and chaos reigned,” she once wrote, in the article.

But then "she found a way forward, figuring out not just how to survive but how to become the kind of teacher that students connect with and remember long after graduation," the article said.

“Ms. Nimmer was the most caring and memorable teacher I had ever had,” wrote one former student, Anthony Collins, in a letter of support for the National Teacher of the Year contest. “I went through some pretty tough times with school and my parents, and Ms. Nimmer talked to me one day and helped me and inspired me to turn my life completely around.”

According to the article, "students don’t raise their hands in class; they call out their names to volunteer an answer, or Nimmer calls their names to draw them into conversation. She gets them up out of their seats to re-enact scenes from the literature they’re reading, and she is always moving, too, constantly looking for ways to keep her students surprised and amused, even during grammar lessons. Every day is different."

“Some of those things came about because I can’t see and I need to have a more interactive classroom, and some of them are just good practice,” Nimmer said. “My classroom is vital and alive and interesting and stimulating every day. I have a very low rate of discipline problems and a very high rate of joy.”

Read the full story and comment below.

Article by Kassondra Granata, Education World Contributor

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