Editor’s Note: Now, at our convention we often have the opportunity to give away awards, and one of the important ones we give away is to those educators who are most distinguished in working with our blind students. Carla McQuillan of Oregon is chair of the Distinguished Educator of Blind Students Award Committee. So here is Carla for the presentation:
Carla McQuillan: Thank you very much, sir. The National Federation of the Blind has long known that high quality education and training is absolutely essential for the success of blind people. Every year the National Federation of the Blind recognizes an educator of blind students who goes above and beyond the expectations of their profession to provide the highest possible quality of education for their students. The Distinguished Educator of Blind Students Award carries with it a plaque engraved with the name of the recipient; the opportunity to network at our national convention with parents of blind children, other educators, as well as leaders of the National Federation of the Blind; the honor of speaking to the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children at its business meeting; and a check for $1,000.
I'd like first to thank my fellow colleagues on the committee. This year Michelle Chacon of Colorado, Emily Gibbs of Texas, and Eric Guillory of Louisiana all served with me.
So this year's distinguished educator of blind students lives in northern Idaho, but her native country is Ecuador. Over the past year she has been teaching blind and low-vision students all over the world Braille in both English and in Spanish. She has coordinated efforts to get blind students from all across the country together to understand each other's communities and lives a little bit better. So there is a plaque, and Beth promised me that we'd all get a chance to see the plaque. So engraved on that plaque is:
The National Federation
of the Blind honors
Jordana Maria Engebretsen
Distinguished Educator of Blind Students
For your skills in teaching Braille and other
alternative techniques of blindness,
For graciously devoting extra time to meet
the needs of your students, and
For empowering your students to perform
beyond their expectations.
You champion our movement.
You strengthen our hopes.
You share our dreams.
July 7, 2021
Congratulations, Jordana. If you'd like to take a few moments and address the rest of the board, please do.
Jordana: Thank you. It's a real honor for me to receive this award, but first I want to say thank you to my family, my husband—they have been there for me to support me and help me all the way. Thank you to many, many professionals in our field, TVIs, orientation and mobility instructors, special education directors, case managers, supervisors, janitors, librarians. The work with our students really is a team approach. I couldn't do it alone; I need to have a team.
Thank you to my students, because without them, I couldn't be a teacher. I love each of them!
Thank you to my God; my faith in him has helped me to be where I am today.
I was diagnosed with lupus at an early age. I was only eighteen. At the age of twenty-one I lost my sight; I became totally blind. I'm also mobility impaired at the same time. However, blindness does not define me. Mobility impairment does not define me.
I would like to share with you an understanding and a motto that I live by. Sometimes, often, my students didn't like it when I told them this, and sometimes I became not a popular teacher when I told them this. But I knew that they needed to hear it. I knew that they needed to hear it from me. This is what it is: Whatever you go through, whatever circumstance you go through, 10 percent is your circumstance and 90 percent is your attitude.
They didn't like it! However, I know by my own experience that a positive attitude will change your outcome. That doesn't mean that a positive attitude will make it easier. What it means is that you will be able to overcome the situation.
Another known secret that is not a secret, but that I live by, is that it's better to give than to receive. I always share with my students that we are not always the ones who receive help. I don't want them always to say, "I need help to do this." I want them to be the givers. I want them to be the ones who give to other people. Because as you know, and most of you probably know about this, the feeling of being able to do things is better than to receive.
This award means a lot to me because really what it does is help me to believe that what I am doing makes a difference in my students.
Always my focus in teaching has been to provide my students with the right tools. I don't just provide them the tools; I do my best to teach them to use the right tools efficiently.
I really, really appreciate this award, and thank you for having me here today.