TSBVI Believes in Our Students

Authors: Emily Coleman, Superintendent, Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired (TSBVI)

Keywords: “high-quality educational opportunities”, labels, empowerment, full potential, personal growth

Abstract: In this article, TSBVI Superintendent Emily Coleman welcomes staff to the 2021-2022 school year and lays out the school’s vision for all 11,000 students across Texas who are blind, visually impaired, or deafblind. She also talks about not defining students with labels and shares thoughts from some of the school’s staff.

The Vision of the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired (TSBVI) states, “All students who are blind, visually impaired, or DeafBlind, including those with additional disabilities, will have high-quality educational opportunities at the TSBVI campus and in their home district, empowering them to lead productive and fulfilling lives.”  Our vision speaks to all of the 11,000 students identified across the state.

As we kicked off the start of another school year, I encouraged our campus to think about how we can empower students and promote their success. We also talked about the various labels our students are assigned and how those may come with preconceived notions. Our students are obviously identified with visual impairment, but they also may have labels like “autistic,” “developmentally delayed,” or classified with “behaviors.”

I’m a parent of a child who is blind and every one of those labels has been used when describing my son, and there was a first time that I heard each of those labels tied to his name. Each time a new label was given, it came with unknown implications and set expectations. These labels were quickly followed by educational jargon like Individualized Educational Program (IEP) and Behavior Intervention Plan (BIP), which shaped the way others thought of him.

We must try to recognize the impact of labels and that they don’t solely define a person. Each student is an individual with a desire to contribute to our community, to belong, to be independent, and to be recognized for their success. Each of us should strive every day to empower them to accomplish their goals and more. For some of our students, knowing how to get them to their full potential won’t be easy, but that’s why we’re here…to figure it out.

To kick off the new school year, all of TSBVI’s employees were asked to write an anonymous sentence about our students starting with “I believe…” These are some of their thoughts:

“I believe our students are capable of infinite accomplishments and of actualizing their dreams and goals.”

“I believe introducing opportunities reframes the student experience and directly impacts a student’s ability to be self-determined.”

“I believe our students have the capacity to significantly contribute to their community through the multitude of talent and skill each student brings.”

“I believe that every person I work with, both students and staff, deserves to be heard and appreciated for their unique point of view, and given support in their process of learning and personal growth.”

“I believe that the students of TSBVI have the potential to achieve anything possible, and it is our duty and privilege as staff to give them every opportunity to do so.”

I’d love to share every response I received as they all spoke to the community of TSBVI and our dedication to, and high expectations for, students who are blind, visually impaired, or deafblind in Texas. To find out what “I believe”, please read my additional article in the Family Wisdom section of this issue, “I Believe Opportunities Matter.”

We look forward to serving our state this year through Outreach training and technical assistance, Curriculum development, Short-term and Summer Programs, and our on-campus Comprehensive Program. We have a lot going on, so be sure to keep up at the TSBVI website.

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