Working with Partners
Authors: Cyral Miller, Director, TSBVI Outreach Programs
Keywords: education, STEM, collaboration
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The blindness field in Texas has a long history of cooperative activities. It has resulted in higher quality and greater availability of services for children and youth with visual impairments. Not many states can boast the rich variety of activities that are jointly sponsored by the Education Service Centers, Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired (TSBVI), Texas Health and Human Services (HHSC), Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) and many related community groups. Family groups foster networking for families who might otherwise be isolated from peer support. Looking over the past year, there have been an astounding number of examples of professionals, families and agencies working together. Formal stakeholder groups like the Personnel Preparation Advisory Group and the Texas Action Committee for the Education of Students with Visual Impairments, the State Leadership Services for the Blind and Visually Impaired, the DB Interagency Task Force all help to unite practitioners, university staff, family members, adults who are blind and/or DeafBlind and related agencies. A new group this year is developing a DeafBlind State Plan to guide the establishment of best practice for that unique population. Working together has been a sure road to progress.
One of the ways TSBVI strives to improve is by looking outside this state and learning from and with others. Joint sponsorship of Paths to Literacy by TSBVI with Perkins School for the Blind has led to a dynamic international literacy resource. The Activelearningspace.org website is a newer collaboration with the Penrickton School and Perkins School for the Blind, and another example of combining with others to advance the field.
Two training events this past spring highlight the benefits of this approach:
In March, the TSBVI Deafblind Project sponsored the Texas Symposium on Deafblindness. Speakers at this conference included many Texans, and others who came from Norway, Scotland, Pennsylvania, San Francisco and Ohio. The National Center on Deaf-Blindness (NCDB) set their annual summit at TSBVI for the following week so DB project staff from across the United States were able to join Texas participants. As a result, the conference buzzed with ideas that spanned continents as we worked together expanding our understanding on how to provide family support, quality educational services and life-long learning opportunities for students with DeafBlindness.
In April, TSBVI hosted the 4th Biennial Principals of Schools for the Blind (POSB) Math & Science Institute for Instruction on our campus. This is a national group designed to build community among teachers of students with visual impairments interested in fostering math and science learning. Often, teachers don’t have easy access to other teachers for guidance and support in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) topical areas. While POSB is part of the Council of Schools for the Blind, the audience included both specialized school staff and local district VI professionals. The POSB Institute included networking and learning from Texas colleagues and those from New Mexico, Maryland, Missouri, Iowa, the American Printing House for the Blind in Kentucky, as well as many vendors.
We will continue to learn and grow by working with partners. Next year will bring more opportunities to share and improve our services, for the benefit of the students we all hope to provide a path to meaningful, successful lives.