To the editor:
New York’s schools for deaf, blind and physically disabled children need more teachers willing to help young students achieve independence in New York State.
Qualified teachers are the keys needed to unlock doors to endless opportunities for our students.
Oprah Winfrey once said, “Your life journey is about learning to become more of who you are and fulfilling the highest, truest expression of yourself as a human being.” And that’s what we aim to teach students as they discover for themselves their path and career in life.
New York’s “4201” schools — state-supported schools for blind, deaf and severely physically disabled children — receive tremendous support from families and friends, and we are grateful to our state legislators and governor for allocating additional funding in recent years for the continuation of our efforts.
However, there is a shortage of qualified teachers who are knowledgeable about the needs of the deaf, blind and physically disabled, or certified in those areas at our schools. And we need their support now too, more than ever.
We’re asking colleges and universities, and the men and women they are molding into specialized teachers, to heed our call.
Beginning in pre-k and through high school, the success of these young children requires specially trained and highly motivated teachers and therapists. Classes have become more diverse, and include students with social and emotional challenges, intellectual disabilities, or language barriers, in addition to a loss of vision or hearing, or the ability to communicate — providing new challenges for both faculty and families.
They say it takes a community — and at 4201 schools, we know first-hand that it does. The New York community has helped bring our schools to where they are today, but we need more specialized teachers eager to help continue our efforts.
We need educators who look forward to growing roots in our classrooms. We need mentors who can communicate directly and effectively with our students. And we need women and men who seek to engage with the young, smiling faces looking back at them each day.
We must ensure teachers are equipped with the tools necessary to provide an education these young minds deserve.
In order to grasp and comprehend the curriculum being taught, students need qualified teachers who have received specialized training in serving children with low-incidence disabilities in addition to the rigorous instruction all new educators receive.
Colleges and universities must continue promoting these higher education programs, and we need young educators with fortitude and compassion to enter this field today. The next generation of 4201 school teachers is out there, and we look forward to welcoming you to our extended family.
The author is chair of the 4201 Schools Association, and executive director of the New York Institute for Special Education.