Flagler grad is Teacher of the Year at Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind
Oct 18, 2017
by Bobbie Stewart
When April Wallace, ‘08, teaches her visually-impaired students about the nature of ducks, she has them feel how water wicks off their feathers to stay dry. To convey the properties of atoms, she has the students themselves represent molecules. To guide students in measuring angles, she creates 90-degree angles by making an “L” on their hand with their thumb and index finger.
In a world where students’ sight is compromised, teaching requires nothing less than a paradigm shift.
“Since the very first day I walked onto the Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind’s campus, the students have inspired me,” she said. “To see so many young people facing the challenges of today’s day and age, along with additional hardships of a sensory impairment, makes me want to assist in any way I can. That is why I do this.”
Wallace, a fifth-grade elementary school teacher who just completed her eighth year at the school, is the district’s 2017-2018 Teacher of the Year. She is responsible for teaching all subject areas including math, reading, social studies and science, as well as specific areas required for visually-impaired students.
A graduate of Flagler’s Deaf Education and Elementary Education bachelor’s degree program, she was on track to teach deaf and hard of hard of hearing students. But during an internship with FSDB’s blind program, she “fell in love with working with visually-impaired students.”
Training in Deaf Education, though, provided her with a transferrable skill that has proved to be invaluable.
“What was clear in the program at Flagler is that, as a teacher, you can’t rely solely on one type of knowledge,” she said. “We were always thinking about sensory development and creating lesson plans using more than one knowledge area. Instead of focusing on visual knowledge, I do kinesthetic and tactile knowledge.”
After Flagler, Wallace attained a Visually Impaired Certification (K-12) and earned a master’s degree in Educational Technology from the University of North Florida.
The Flagler grad’s unique approach earned her a spot as a contender for the Florida Teacher of the Year competition, where she ended up taking home the “Magic of Believing Award” for her ability to create positive change by believing in her students.
“My goal for the students in my classroom is two-fold,” she said. “To strive for the independence and social skills that will allow them to be successful on a fifth-grade level and become the lifelong learners they need to be to become independent and successful adults.”