The Braille Monitor                                                                                       July 2003

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Teacher for Blind Joins 7,302 Getting Diplomas at MSU

by James McCurtis Jr.

From the Editor: Debbie Robinson is a longtime, dedicated Federationist. She is one of those quiet people who are always ready to do what needs to be done, whether it's selling candy, teaching Braille, babysitting for the kids, or sending a casserole. Now that her children are almost grown, she returned to school in order to become an effective teacher of the visually impaired. This spring she graduated from college. Here is the story that appeared in the Lansing State Journal on May 2, 2003:

East Lansing--Two years ago Deborah Robinson walked into her first college class since 1976 because she was on a mission. Robinson, who is blind, wanted to teach blind children. So she enrolled in Michigan State University's College of Education. Previous credits helped cut her time there to two years.

On Saturday the nontraditional forty-nine-year-old will walk down the aisle with a bachelor's degree in special education from the College of Education. Robinson, who's graduating summa cum laude, is one of 7,302 undergraduate and advanced degree students graduating from MSU [Michigan State University] this weekend.

"I decided that was a field I could make a good contribution in," Robinson said. "It's important for blind adults to be good role models." Governor Jennifer Granholm will address undergraduates during a universitywide ceremony this afternoon. She also will receive an honorary doctor of laws degree.

Graduates can choose to go either to their individual ceremonies or to the universitywide commencement. Granholm received twenty requests to speak at commencement ceremonies this year, said Elizabeth Boyd, Granholm's spokeswoman. "She is looking forward to addressing the graduates in what she hopes is an uplifting speech," Boyd said.

Robinson, a wife and a mother of two children, Gina, eighteen, and Daniel, sixteen, worked at various agencies for the blind in Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Nebraska before moving to Lansing in 1999. She earned a bachelor's degree in psychology in 1976. When she planned to return to college, she thought of the parents at her former agencies who complained about not having effective teachers for their blind children.

"They wanted teachers that understood the needs of blind children," she said. Robinson will intern at Lansing's Cumberland Elementary School for one year before becoming a certified teacher.

Fred Wurtzel, president of the National Federation of the Blind of Michigan, said Robinson's social work and her life experience as a blind person will be good assets for teaching children who are blind. "She will be a person who will be able to help blind children gain the skills that they need to be successful blind adults," Wurtzel said.

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