Main content

Alert message

Winter 2009 Table of Contents
Versión Español de este artículo (Spanish Version)

By Michele Chauvin, President of TAPVI, Sugar Land, TX

Abstract:  The Texas Association of Parents of Children with Visual Impairments shares their experience speaking before the State Board of Educator Certification in October and provides an update on their organization’s business.


Keywords: Family Wisdom, blind, visually impaired, family organization, CTVI, SBEC, teacher certification


In October 2008, the Texas Association for Parents of Children with Visual Impairments (TAPVI) had the opportunity to speak before the State Board of Educator Certification (SBEC) in Austin. As a mom, I shared my plea that the board should require a Certified Teacher of the Visually Impaired (CTVI) to receive specialized training, including coursework and a supervised internship, before earning this certification. Currently, Texas law only requires that teachers pass an exam to become certified in any additional subjects, including CTVIs. A student who is the son of a TAPVI member also gave a personal account about the role his CTVI plays in his life. What a proud moment for his family!

These were among the statements for Item 11: Consideration and Opportunity to Approve the Recommendation that A Visually Impaired Teacher Take Visually Impaired Training in Addition to Examination as a Requirement for Visually Impaired Certification.


Thank you for the opportunity to speak today. My name is Michele Chauvin, and I live in Sugar Land. I am the President of the Texas Association for Parents of Children with Visual Impairments, and I have a 7-year-old daughter, who is blind. Like most Texas students who are visually impaired, she has attended public school in our community of Fort Bend ISD. Over the years, she has worked with 5 different Certified Teachers of students with visual impairments. We have observed a variety of educational methods based on their training. It is imperative for VI Teachers to have the knowledge and experience provided by a complete training program to work successfully in this specialized field.

Like the conductor of a complex symphony, the VI teacher coordinates lesson plans between numerous teachers. Adapting materials for every assignment on a daily basis is complicated to say the least. A typical lesson plan may include a raised line drawing, a tactile picture, a real-life experience, Braille, large print, complex technology, or all of the above. Everyone in a public school relies heavily on the VI teacher for guidance, from the principal to the volunteers. If the VI teacher lacks expertise, everyone suffers the consequences of an unprepared blind person, who may be missing skills necessary for independence.

VI teachers are also responsible for several assessments. The results often have far reaching impact into a child’s future, possibly adding additional eligibilities, as 70% of VI students also have multiple impairments. Texas Administrative Code §89.1040 requires that schools must include a certified VI teacher when doing evaluations. It would be prudent to have a thoroughly trained VI teacher to conduct or collaborate on such important assessments.

As the President of a statewide parent organization, I have met many VI families across Texas. A common concern for these families is the unique educational needs of our children. Our VI teacher is often our lifeline. A teacher without complete training or experience may steer a community in the wrong direction. These parents may give up on the public school system and decide to educate their child in a private or home school setting, rather than work with someone they view as incapable. Sadly, these families often lose the support they expected from the public school system. They simply want to send their kids to school, confident they are educated appropriately every day.

Proficiency in the vision field cannot be learned by passing an exam. This wealth of knowledge is acquired through specific training, experience working with VI students in a supervised setting, mentoring and continuing education. Please consider requiring teachers to complete their training before receiving their certification as a VI teacher in Texas. This will better equip our VI teachers to instruct a variety of VI students, families, and school systems regarding the specialized needs of this unique population. Thank you for your time.


Hello, my name is Cooper Alexander; I’m 13 and an 8th grader at Valley View ISD in Valley View, Texas. I’m here, away from my school to speak to you about how important my teacher of the visually impaired is to me.

When I was born I was too early and didn’t weigh even two pounds. A month later I had bacterial meningitis and almost died. Because of that, I have an eye condition called Cortical Visual Impairment, or CVI, and mild cerebral palsy. I see light and dark, some colors, and sometimes shapes. Sometimes, I see less, sometimes more, it changes depending on my health, surroundings, and stress levels. I can walk pretty well, but I fall a lot if I’m not careful. I use a white cane to navigate my school and when I’m out running around.

My mom found out about ECI when I was 2 months old, because they told her at the hospital I would be blind, have cerebral palsy, and mental retardation. As you can see, I’m pretty smart and this is why: she has told me she and Dad were desperate to find some way to help me. ECI sent out Mary Ann Foster to look me over and decide how best to start. From the time I was 6 months old, Miss Mary Ann has looked out for me. I don’t remember any of the early stuff, but Mom said she did lots of vision stimulation activities with me and tried to help me interact with my surroundings. I know she must have helped because I’m an all A student now.

It’s hard to tell you in this short a time what Miss Mary Ann does for me each day, but I’ll try. She started me on Braille by the time I was 3. Because I am a Braille student, she has to see me at my school a lot. By 1st grade I had a type of Braille note-taker and all my books were brailled. By 3rd grade, she made sure I was reading contracted Braille so I wouldn’t fall behind the other kids. Now, she makes sure I have audio textbooks as well as the Braille, because there is a lot of reading! In 2nd grade she started teaching me Nemeth Code for math. It’s a special Braille code just for advanced math, and it’s hard. She gets me the technology I need to succeed in my classroom. I have a Braille note-taker that I write on and read from, a screen reader for my computer and tons more equipment she had to know how to teach me.

She has teacher worksheets brailled for me, math papers fixed so I can feel the diagrams or shapes so they make sense to me. Once, I needed the elements chart and she made sure I had it early, so I could start memorizing them. If we use maps, she makes sure I have them and in art class she helps the teacher understand what would be a good way to teach me. Miss Mary Ann sits with me in math and science sometimes, because it’s easy for the classroom teacher to forget I need more description, or because there are changes that need to be made at the last minute so I can understand the lesson. That happens all the time, and she always knows how to help me. She takes a lot of classes at Region XI and X so she will know what might help me.

On top of all of that, even when she’s seen me hundreds of times that month, she will take me to an event like Sports Extravaganza or a Mentor night at the American Foundation for the Blind center in Dallas because she wants me to be an independent, regular kid. She say’s that means I have to go to college and get a good job.

If Miss Mary Ann had not learned Braille, or Nemeth code I wouldn’t have gone to Space Camp a couple of years ago, be the president of my 4-H club or be here talking to you, because I couldn’t do the work. All kids deserve a great teacher like her, and we shouldn’t give them anything less. Please make sure all teachers of students with visual impairments get the training they need to help kids like me. Thank you for your time. Do you have any questions?

TAPVI.ORG Website Is Parked!

If you have tried to visit our website lately, you found that the site was not working. Our website is temporarily parked. We own the domain (name), but the company who hosts the space wants us to change our site builder, re-entering all our info, and is increasing the rates. Our Webmaster is looking into this issue. Hopefully, the site will be back up soon. We have had this website for a few years, and we intend to keep it.