MSB Students Teach Valuable Lesson

by Dotty Raynor

For the past 5 years, Maryland School for the Blind (MSB) students have been changing perceptions and impacting future educators at Towson University (TU). 

Annually,Professor Gail Kaplan, invites her former students that have become teachers to come back to TU and present to both undergraduate and graduate students in her Methods of Mathematics course.  Students in this course are studying to become secondary Mathematics teachers or are graduate students currently working as secondary Mathematics teachers.

Math Teacher Danny Salemie returns to his alma mater to take part in these presentations every year and has since he began his teaching career 17 years ago.

In 2017, when he began working at MSB as a mathematics teacher, he took the opportunity to make a significant impact in the perception of blind and low vision students. “I have learned so much from my students at MSB that I thought, wouldn’t it be great if I could take them to Towson to help me explain to future teachers how blind or low vision students learn math.”   He took the idea to Professor Kaplan and she was completely on board.   

“I look forward to having Danny and the MSB students visit my classes every year now.  They have opened both my eyes and mind, and expanded my knowledge as well as that of my students.  This is such a valuable hands-on opportunity for current and future educators to learn from a different perspective. The knowledge they are receiving from Danny and his students will translate not only in the classroom, but throughout life,” said Professor Kaplan.     

It is also a great experience and confidence booster for the MSB students. Though it is strictly voluntary, Danny never has a problem recruiting his students to participate.  “Our students really enjoy interacting with college students and relish the opportunity to teach them something new and share how they learn and live as a person with blindness or low-vision,” according to Danny.  

The students prepare weeks in advance and Danny encourages them to help create the presentation.  “It’s different every year.  For a few years, I took the same team of students, but they have since graduated. Last year, during the COVID pandemic, we participated in the event virtually.”

High school students, James Quade, Marie Ijambo, and Brandon Davis were the team selected to take the field trip to TU this year.  They not only focused on how they learn math, but also explained and demonstrated how they navigate their environment through orientation and mobility skills, learn braille, and access technology.  The presentation included student skits, demonstrations, and a Q&A session.

student reading braille to class of students
Marie demonstrates braille to TU students

Following the lesson Professor Kaplan asks her students to reflect on the experience in writing. She shared some of those reflections with us from last month’s class. The reflections illustrate how much of a difference three high school students can make on an entire academic community. Thanks to these three high school students, the experiences these teachers and future teachers had will go with them into their own schools and classrooms and will continue to have an impact for years to come.    

According to TU student Casey Brady, “The presentation by Danny Salemie and his students at the Maryland School for the Blind was immensely valuable and inspirational. I have realized that I need to check my assumptions about what students can and cannot do. I had immediately assumed students who are blind would not be able to complete a seek and solve math assignment, but I was proven wrong during the presentation.”

This experience will stick with me and will help me as I go forward as a teacher. Any time I have a student with a visual impairment, in particular, I will do my best to talk to them about it without making it a big deal and see how I can help them best. Just because they can’t see the same way as others, doesn’t mean they aren’t as capable or smart. They just might need a little extra support to be able to be on an equal playing field and they deserve that,” said Nicole Domsic, TU student.

Danny himself summed it up perfectly, “James, Marie, and Brandon made a huge impact in their community by demonstrating their capability and competence and delivered an important message to the teachers and future teachers, always set high expectations for all students, regardless of their seen or unseen disabilities.”