A new partnership is helping fill a gap between students with visual impairments and qualified teachers who can support them.
For decades there has been a shortage, often severe, of Teachers of the Visually Impaired (TVIs) in Wisconsin and nationwide.
This past summer, the second cohort of graduates emerged from the only TVI licensure program in Wisconsin. That’s great news for students who are blind or visually impaired.
“So many of our students really do have the tools to go on to college or a technical school, or a job directly out of school,” says Pete Dally, director of the Wisconsin Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired (WCBVI), “but they have to be given those discrete skills that we as TVIs teach: orientation and mobility, daily living skills, Braille skills.”
The new TVI licensure program is offered by the University of Wisconsin-Platteville but students may choose to live on the WCBVI’s Janesville campus (which includes the Wisconsin School for the Blind and Visually Impaired) while attending summer course offerings associated with the program. Additionally, four of the programs’ courses (more than a third) are held at WCBVI.
At WCBVI, teachers in training can really focus on working with actual K-12 students, learning Braille, and seeing orientation and mobility issues up close.
Dally has been closely involved in setting up the Platteville program. In 2012 he, along with a WCBVI staff members Andres Soto, Mandy Jordan and Stacy Grandt began contacting university faculty, gently encouraging them to address the TVI shortage.
“We were very honest,” he recalls. “We said, ‘These programs are usually very small, it’s not a program that generates a lot of revenue - but we’re in the business of serving people and this is a very important field.’”
After Platteville “stepped up,” WCVBI provided as much support as possible to ensure a high quality program. The Center is feeling the benefits: some of its special education staff received licenses through the new program and are now filling the harder-to-come-by TVI role at WCBVI.