Inaugural cohort graduates from Visual Impairment program

By

Meghan Ensell

“We couldn't be more thrilled with this group of 12. They were trailblazers in a brand-new program, learning how to be a teacher for the visually impaired, all while navigating a pandemic,” says Jared Kittelson, chief operating officer of the Foundation for Blind Children

Kittelson is referring to the first class to graduate from Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College’s Bachelor of Arts in Special Education (Visual Impairment) program. The program — just a year old — was created in partnership with the Foundation for Blind Children in an effort to end Arizona’s shortage of teachers for the visually impaired (TVI). 

The foundation hosted the graduation celebration, on May 10, for the graduates and their friends and family. Each graduate was given a Foundation for Blind Children tote bag inscribed with "TVI Stuff", a felt board for vision lessons and a white cane.

Graduates of TVI programs go on to work with blind and partially-sighted students in public and private schools, as well as other organizations that serve the visually impaired. The program leads to dual certification in visual impairment and mild-moderate special education. Students in the program complete their internships and residencies at the Foundation for Blind Children.

Cameron Smith, one of this year’s graduates, says, “I am very grateful for the Foundation for Blind Children. They have prepared me and given me hands-on experience, knowledge and training. I feel like I have already worked with the best in the field, and I could not have had a better foundation going into my career.”

The immersive program teaches students how to perform assessments to gauge a student’s visual ability and how to teach visual and compensatory skills, such as concept development and organizational skills; as well as communication skills including sign language, tactile symbols and braille.  

“Participating in the TVI program has transformed me for the better,” says Savannah Fabsitz, graduate of the program. “It has given me the opportunity to interact, work and learn from some of the most hardworking professionals in the field of education. Having the opportunity to be involved in this program has helped me gain confidence in my abilities."

While the goal of all TVIs is the same — helping the student to live independently — there are many career paths from which to choose. TVIs have the option to work with babies, children, teens or adults, and can decide to work in a classroom, facility or home setting.

Of this year’s graduates, nine will stay with the Foundation for Blind Children and work as TVIs at the foundation’s school, as well as in partner districts; two will work as TVIs in other Arizona districts; and one is moving out-of-state. 

“We are going to solve the TVI shortage in this state and beyond, and we just got a little closer to achieving that goal with this graduating class,” says Kittelson.

Learn more about the Bachelor of Arts in Education in Special Education (Visual Impairment) program.

Learn more about the Foundation for Blind Children.

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