Holly Idler: The Coach, The Cheerleader and Part of Their Team

Note from Florida Blind Services Director Joyce Hildreth: Holly Idler from the Rehabilitation Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired recently received the Dean W. Tuttle Professional Education Award from The Hadley School for the Blind , which is considered to be the Heisman Trophy of furthering education for persons with visual disabilities, especially with John W. Heisman being visually impaired himself. We are very proud of her, and I asked her to share how her knowledge has affected her client instruction:

Holly Idler receives Dean W. Tuttle Professional Education Award

As a teacher at the Rehabilitation Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired, I teach Orientation and Mobility to our adult clients. Here at the Center, the clients are taught assistive technology, home management, personal management, Braille and mobility. Being visually impaired myself, I want to assist my clients by giving them tools to make their day-to-day activities and responsibilities easier to manage in a more effective manner.

Here are just a few ways Hadley has influenced my teaching style: 

  • In use for thousands of years, the abacus is an efficient, accurate tool for doing math, by people with or without vision. I’ve taken a few classes using this device, and enjoy reviewing new techniques and competing with clients, during breaks, to see who can solve a math problem first. I am getting better, with practice.
  • Guide dogs are just one of the many mobility aids our clients can choose to utilize to get from point “A” to point “B” in a safe, effective and graceful manner. Many of my students are new cane users, and are interested in learning about guide dogs and possibly applying for one in the future. One of the key points of the class, Guide Dogs,  that stood out to me was how much the owner’s daily routine would change once they got a dog – they have to allow time to feed, walk and groom the dog each morning, prior to going to work or college.
  • I teach orientation and mobility classes and have to be careful with my students who have diabetes. Mobility activities can cause their blood sugar to drop during a lesson. In the Diabetes: Toward Self-Management course, I learned that having the client drink water BEFORE the lesson can help the body regulate the sugar levels. It is still important to drink water during and after a lesson.
  • Joyce Hildreth, the Florida DOE Division of Blind Services Director, once said persons with visual impairments need to look at self-employment as a viable option. I took two employment classes, Finding Employment and Self-Employment with a Minimal Investment. These classes provided some insight on what type of person would be cut out for self employment and what he or she would need to accomplish when creating their business plan. I feel I now have the knowledge to encourage my students to go in whatever direction they want to go in, including starting their own business – and at least one has!
  • One of the classes that I enjoyed the most was Using Raised Markers.  This class discussed many different options of marking and labeling household items such as the microwave and stove, personal items: such as shampoo and conditioner, ways to identify canned foods and medications, independently without having to know Braille.

I take Hadley classes myself, for my own education. If I can learn one new piece of information to share with my clients/students, my family or my coworkers, then the time the class took was worthwhile. I am not just their teacher. I am their coach, cheerleader and a part of their team.

Stick with Education

 Guest post by Bureau Chief of Family and Community Outreach Joe Davis

I recently had a chance to hear from two accomplished individuals – one a professional, one a student – who each shared with us their stories of motivation. Both highlighted their studies in the field of engineering, and they were able to articulate their inspiring words to encourage kids to do well in school. 

Their messages really resonate with me. Student Andres Gutierrez talked about how he went from living in Colombia and not caring about school to now being a chemical engineering major and interning at a Fortune 500 company. Professional Allan Morales talked about his travels around the nation and how his education laid the foundation for his engineering career. 

Check out Andres’ video  and Allan’s video – they are exactly the types of role models our young students need.

Are you or your children on the path for a science, technology, engineering or math (STEM) career? What motivates you or your children to stay in school? How do you think education affects career development? Does your child learn about STEM at their after-school programs?

Miami School Visit

Today I had the opportunity to visit Holmes Elementary School in Miami-Dade County. While there, I met with Principal Atunya R. Walker as well as other teachers and staff. I was very interested in learning how the culture of the school has shifted significantly from a few years ago, and the role the district plays in supporting the turnaround effort at the school site. I also met with a leader of Teach for America for Miami Dade, and Regional Executive Director Gina Eyerman in Region 5 attended the tour with me as well.

Seeking Flexibility, Looking for Input

Guest post by DOE Chancellor of Public Schools Michael Grego

Florida has long embraced progressive reform efforts in education. We have not shied away from meaningful changes that ultimately prepare our students for what lies ahead in their paths – whether that is a successful career or challenging postsecondary work. This is one of the main reasons for us to apply for the flexibility waiver being offered by the U.S. Department of Education. While we at the Florida Department of Education prepare the application to submit, we are also seeking your input as well.

We continue to set high standards and want to align our accountability system with the federal requirements. By doing so, we hope to minimize the confusion that so many of our education stakeholders have expressed with schools that are graded A or B, but not able to show adequate progress according to the federal definitions.

Check out the resources at www.fldoe.org/esea and provide your comments through the email address and the online survey. Your feedback will be vital as we refine the framework to help our students further their education.

Setting Higher Standards for our Students

I released a statement today to let people know of the FCAT 2.0 standard setting process currently underway in Florida. In it I highlighted the fact that committees of teachers, superintendents and business leaders have spent numerous hours over the past several weeks providing feedback on how Florida should report Achievement Levels for our students’ performance on statewide assessments. They offered their feedback; now we are looking for yours. 

You have the opportunity to provide your thoughts on what each grade level’s test scores for expected achievement should be as we continue our work together to improve educational outcomes for all students. To participate in this rule development process, please visit our webpage at https://app1.fldoe.org/rules/default.aspx. Once the feedback period concludes, our next step is to present a recommended rule to the Florida State Board of Education in December for their approval. 

Establishment of these new Achievement Level cut scores is essential in our work to raise expectations for our students and adequately prepare them for the jobs of today. We look forward to hearing from you!