Teaching is an extension of my commitment to lifelong learning in myself and improves with every student interaction. Education is a self-driven process, and I believe the best teachers are those who inform and inspire this journey rather than dictate a prescription.
My teaching philosophy stems from working with students aged birth to 65 with wide ranges of abilities including visual impairment, severe and multiple disabilities, and deafblindness. My experience informs peer-mentoring relationships with fellow educators and researchers, and training of pre-service teachers of students with visual impairments (TVIs). Regardless of the demographic, I find that similar threads underlie each teachable moment: A willingness to advance learning by engaging with others, desire to apply knowledge in novel and familiar environments, and willingness to embrace the risk of failure by committing to gain something positive from each effort.
When teachers and students commit to these core values in the learning process, the journey can begin. In my roles as a direct service provider in primary education, teacher educator in postsecondary education, and accessibility consultant with technology and content developers, I translate research-based pedagogical approaches for classroom application and student adoption. I pose that students must be supported to construct their own knowledge in contexts similar to how they will be expected to apply it, and believe that people learn best when they are armed with a variety of tools and critical thinking skills to make informed decisions.
My special interest in technology rests in the ability to overcome accessibility challenges and facilitate equal access to information. With regard to instruction in this area, I believe that developing abilities to locate resources and information on demand is much more practical than mastering device knowledge. Students must be provided with skills and conceptual practice that are dynamic to situational demands rather than dependent on static operational knowledge that often become obsolete in practice.
For example, many TVIs are trained according to specific operations of particular devices and lack experience in how to implement technology in terms of overall function, pedagogical need, and learning objective. As a result, the technology itself becomes the barrier and target of instruction rather than the student. On the contrary, whether I am working with an elementary school or graduate student, I focus on disseminating the principles of accessibility, grounding recommendations for a device or software in the overall learning objective, and adjusting decisions in response to variations in student abilities and classroom demands. By using novel tactics to embed technology instruction in the larger context of practical application, students are empowered to evaluate, assess, and apply their knowledge within realistic frameworks.
My emphasis on guiding students to construct their own knowledge for functional use parallels how each student interaction iterates opportunities for my own improvement as an educator. My students’ abilities to think critically when they are in the field are the ultimate measure of my own teaching efficacy. Ongoing evaluation based on these outcomes provides the data I need to continually improve my own practice, and join my students in the learning process.