I still don't know what I want to be when I grow up, but I am certain that whatever it is, I'll have Hadley to thank for it.
— Gary, 2014 Challenge of Living Award Winner, IN
On October 9, The Hadley School for the Blind presented awards to students at the school's Annual Meeting of the Board of Trustees at the Skokie Country Club in Glencoe. Each year, Hadley instructors and faculty choose seven students to honor for their outstanding achievement in their studies. Hadley has formally presented student awards for more than 50 years.
Dr. Tuck Tinsley III is president of the American Printing House for the Blind (APH), headquartered in Louisville, KY. He assumed the role in 1989, following 21 years at the Florida School for the Deaf and Blind, where he taught mathematics for 12 years and served as principal for nine.
Dr. Tinsley is an APH board member; past president and current board member of the Kentucky School for the Blind Charitable Foundation; North American Delegate to the World Blind Union; and North American representative to the International Council of Education of the Visually Impaired.
He has published 17 monographs and articles related to blindness and visual impairment and has received numerous honors, the most recent being the 2010 Migel Medal from the American Foundation for the Blind. Dr. Tinsley received his B.S. and M.S. from Florida State University and his Ed.D. from the University of Florida.
Dr. Tinsley is a widely-admired advocate for the education of individuals who are blind or visually impaired. Most recently, his advocacy, ever-present optimism and encouragement were instrumental in bringing Hadley's new "Braille Music Reading" curriculum to fruition, providing a $40,000 APH grant for its development.
Jeanette McAllister lost her sight suddenly in 2010. She heard about Hadley through the Virginia Department for the Blind, and she decided to enroll to learn braille in order to retain her literacy.
"I once had a library in my home. Being illiterate was not an option I was even going to consider," explains Jeanette.
Jeanette is the founder and president of A Heart Staffing, a professional job placement firm. She uses braille every day in her work. She carries a BrailleNote at all times and refers to it as a "blind person's laptop." Her notes are recorded in braille, so neither customers nor employees are compelled to listen to screen reader software during meetings. In place of a talking calculator, Jeanette uses an abacus, which she mastered after taking Hadley's "Abacus" course.
She says "Self-Esteem and Adjusting with Blindness" and "Personal Safety: Self-Defense Strategies" helped alleviate the fear of traveling alone and also gave Jeanette more confidence in her career and daily life.
"Hadley has given me my life back and furthered my career in more ways than I could have ever imagined," says Jeanette.
When Annapurna learned that her daughter, Rashmi, would be blind, she was devastated. She had many questions and doubts and was unsure where to turn for guidance. She learned about Hadley through the L V Prasad Eye Institute, a rehabilitation center in India.
"When I got my shipment of materials for my first Hadley course, 'Reach Out and Teach,' I couldn't believe it. Suddenly, there was all the information I had been looking for." She has since taken several more courses including "Child Development," "Learning Through Play," "Abacus" and "Contracted Braille."
Because of her practical experience in helping her daughter, Annapurna was inspired to become a special educator. She now works for the Society for the Visually Handicapped. She assesses students' knowledge and skills, prepares IEPs (Individual Education Programs) and reports on students' progress. She also is pursuing a master's degree in Counseling and Psychology.
"Going through what we have been through has made me a better person and a better parent. No matter what happens, I know Rashmi will live life to the fullest," says Annapurna.
When Patricia Kingwell first developed macular degeneration four years ago, she felt panicked at the thought of being dependent upon others or unable to read. A friend who was also losing her vision told her about Hadley.
Patricia has taken "Using Raised Markers," as well as "Braille Literacy 1-4" and "Experience Braille Reading." She considers her Hadley instructors her friends and credits their patience and encouragement with allowing her to become proficient in braille.
"I have always loved to read. People said that I didn't have to learn braille because I could get books on tape, but that wasn't the answer for me. I wanted to be able to read myself, and there are so many more uses for braille, such as finding a public restroom or labeling my belongings," says Patricia.
At age 70, she fulfilled a lifelong dream and started taking piano lessons. She plans to enroll in Hadley's braille music courses next. "There are so many courses at Hadley that I'll probably be taking them for years to come," says Patricia.
Kimberly Common's six-year-old grandson, Jerry, has been blind since birth. Kimberly wanted to take as active a role as possible in her grandson's development, so she enrolled at Hadley to learn braille and other skills to support him.
In addition to braille, Kimberly has taken several other courses including "Beginning the Special Education Journey," "How to Be Your Child's Advocate" and "Learning Through Play." Her favorite so far is "Self-Esteem and Adjusting with Blindness."
"It's not easy understanding how you're going to get through this, but that course helped me get beyond my doubts. I now know Jerry is going to be okay and will be successful with our help," explains Kimberly.
Kimberly is employed full-time and also freelances on the side, so she appreciates that she was able to fit Hadley courses into her busy schedule.
Kathy Blake first enrolled at Hadley to learn braille, which led to her decision to become a graduate student at the University of Massachusetts Boston in the Vision Studies program. She now works as a teacher for the blind or visually impaired (TVI) for the Bedford School District in Bedford, New Hampshire.
Kathy has taken several braille courses, "Basic Nemeth Code" and "Abacus 1 and 2." Her favorite course is "Braille Music Basics," which teaches sighted individuals to transcribe print music into braille, as well as how to teach the braille music code to others.
"I love seeing collaboration between a student who reads braille music and his or her sighted peers. It's great to see students with visual impairments woven into the fabric of the school community with little hesitation. The cohesion and integration because of access is critical in the lives of all students."
Her enthusiasm for braille has led her to encourage her colleagues to enroll at Hadley. "Hadley has been instrumental in my desire to pursue my passion for providing access to education for all students, particularly those students with visual impairments," says Kathy.
Gary Griffin began losing his vision at age eight, due to a hereditary condition that causes scarring on the retina. He also suffers from hearing loss in one ear. Gary dropped out of school at age 16 and worked on a farm for many years until his vision loss prevented him from performing his job safely.
Having never graduated high school, Gary enrolled at Hadley to earn his high school diploma. "I realized that whether I liked it or not, the world was going into the future, with or without me. I learned how to use a computer with ZoomText, and I am working my way toward a degree," says Gary.
Gary enjoys the one-on-one relationships he has with his Hadley instructors and says interacting with them is like learning from good friends. His favorite courses include "Abacus 1" and "Elements of Poetry."
"I still don't know what I want to be when I grow up, but I am certain that whatever it is, I'll have Hadley to thank for it," says Gary.
Prior to losing her sight due to glaucoma, Sammie Clay was in the United States Air Force for 20 years. She was mostly stationed in Germany but traveled throughout Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Asia. Sammie returned to the United States in 1984 and enrolled in night school while working for Air Force Housing at the Pentagon. She left school when it became too difficult to see the blackboard.
Sammie learned about Hadley through the VA Eastern Blind Rehabilitation Center in West Haven, Connecticut. She has taken 19 Hadley courses since 2004. Her favorite courses have been "Elements of Composition" and "English Composition," which improved her writing skills.
For six years, she has worked as the secretary for the visual support group at the VA Visual Rehabilitation Clinic. "Hadley's English courses have allowed me to transcribe the minutes of our meetings so that they are legible, understandable and concise," says Sammie.
Sammie lives alone with her guide dog and enjoys attending book club meetings, playing card games, visiting museums, traveling and volunteering at the VA with newly blinded veterans who are learning to cope with vision loss.