Narrowing the Gap for Blind and Low Vision Students in Maryland Teacher Preparation Program

 Become a Highly Qualified Teacher of Blind Students
Teachers of the Visually Impaired or Teachers of Blind Students (TBS) serve to provide specially designed instruction to students whose vision loss has an educational impact on their learning. They teach blind and low-vision students how to read and write Braille, use technology, be included in their classrooms, and achieve in school. The lack of teachers for this population leads students to not receive the highest quality free, appropriate public education (FAPE) and to be unnecessarily placed in more restrictive environments causing unprecedented dropout levels of blind and low-vision students at 22.3%, and only 15.7% of these students are receiving a bachelor's degree or higher (Braille Works). 

In an effort to narrow this gap, the Maryland State Department of Education Division of Early Intervention/Special Education Services is partnering with the National Federation of the Blind and Louisiana Tech University to bring a quality, nationally recognized program to Maryland consisting of in-person and virtual learning experiences. The NFB Professional Learning Community/Immersion and Mentoring Program will consist of in-person components that will be conducted at the National Federation of the Blind Jernigan Institute (NFBJI) located in Baltimore, Maryland, the NFB Washington Seminar held in Washington, D.C., and the NFB National Convention held in New Orleans, Louisiana. The Louisiana Tech University Graduate Certificate program is a one-year program that is primarily remote but has a weeklong immersion experience at the NFBJI. Applicants must already possess a teaching certificate for this program. 

Time and Tuition

This first cohort will begin in the spring of 2022, with an anticipated graduation in the spring of 2023. Individuals that are selected to participate in this first cohort will receive full tuition with a signed agreement to stay in Maryland and teach for a minimum of three years. 

Description of Curriculum

The key components of the NFB Professional Learning Community/Immersion and Mentoring Program include: 

  • Understanding Blindness from a Blind Perspective: Participants will learn how the blind have organized to instill self-agency and mobilize for collective action. They will learn how they can instill this principle into their students, especially transition-age students, so that they can advocate for themselves and have positive post-secondary outcomes. The cohort will listen to tell-all educational accounts from blind adults and parents of blind children, create a philosophical framework that will aid the teachers in promoting positive identity development within the blind youth they serve, and stretch future educators to evaluate their attitudes about blindness by engaging them in nonvisual challenge activities.
  • Introduction to Advocacy: Participants will interact with NFB members during the organization’s annual legislative program (Washington Seminar), witnessing firsthand the power of consumer advocacy to advance opportunities for blind people. Through formal and informal interactions with a wide variety of blind people, the cohort will expand their knowledge base on blindness, which will support them in educating blind youth. They will learn about the hot-topic issues in the field and how they can be agents of change to narrow the gap in education for blind and low-vision students. 
  • Successful Instructional Strategies from the Perspective of the Blind: Participants will engage with professionals from a rehabilitation and training center for the blind, as well as professionals from the Professional Development and Research Institute on Blindness at Louisiana Tech University. This will include demonstrations focusing on Braille, access technology, and cane travel skills for students, and an exploration of the benefits and controversies of using blindfolds as teaching tools. They will explore various instructional strategies, engage in conversations about the issues in the field, and question their own biases. 
  • Pairing with Mentors: Participants will be paired with mentors who will follow their progress through their program, provide them with additional resources, provide evaluation information, and serve as a point of reference for participants. 
  • Hands-on Experiences: The cohort will meet for a one-afternoon session each month starting in spring 2022. This will be hosted at the NFB Jernigan Institute in Baltimore, Maryland. Participants who wish to remain virtual may do so. This experience is to get participants hands-on learning, exposure to blind adults, and interaction with various professionals.

In addition to participating in the NFB Professional Learning Community/Immersion and Mentoring Program, individuals will be required to complete the Louisiana Tech University Graduate Certificate program, consisting of the eight (8) blindness-specific courses below, which include an Internship in Education experience.  

Spring 2022:
EDCI 579/Developmental Aspects of Blindness, Assessment and Evaluation

Summer 2022:
EDCI 584/Orientation & Mobility for Teachers of Blind Students 
EDCI 582/Educational and Functional Implications of Low Vision and Blindness 

Fall 2022:
EDCI 536/Braille I (UEB)

Winter 2022:
EDCI 546/Adaptive Technology for the Visually Impaired 
EDCI 578/Braille II 

Spring 2023:
EDCI 505/Instructional Strategies and Materials for Teaching Blind Students 
EDCI 516/Internship in Education 

How to apply

In order to be considered for participation, individuals must: 

  • Currently hold a teaching credential.
  • Complete the application and provide all requested information, including a written essay.
  • Apply and be accepted to the Louisiana Tech Graduate Certificate in Visual Impairments - Blind Education program. You must apply separately through Louisiana Tech by November 30, 2021, to receive funding through this program. Application for Louisiana Tech Graduate Certificate in Visual Impairments - Blind Education program
  • Participate in the following in-person programming components. While the NFB Professional Learning Community/Immersion and Mentoring Program and Louisiana Tech program are primarily virtual, there are several required in-person components that must be attended. Assistance will be provided for individuals to participate. 
    • NFB Washington Seminar, Washington, D.C. – February 7-9, 2022 
    • NFB National Convention, New Orleans, Louisiana – July 5-10, 2022
    • Weeklong Immersion Training Experience, Baltimore Maryland – June 2022
  • Agree to work at least three years in Maryland post graduation or be required to repay 100% of the tuition assistance received. 

Apply now!

If you have any questions about the NFB Professional Learning Community/Immersion and Mentoring Program or this application, please contact: Karen Anderson at [email protected].

If you have questions about the Louisiana Tech University Graduate Certificate program, contact: Dr. Edward Bell at [email protected]