By: Molly Craig, MDS Senior, Class of 2020 // MDS Musings Blog
From a very early age, I have known what I wanted to be when I grew up. From playing pretend teacher with my Barbies at age seven, to volunteering in a special education classroom at age thirteen, something about being in a classroom just clicks with me. When I found out that MDS had a Senior Capstone program, I had no idea what that meant except you could miss school to do something of your choosing and that was enough for me.
After I met with Mrs. Corum,the faculty liaison, I realized the Senior Capstone program was so much more. The program would give me professional and independent experience in a career in my field of interest. I was used to working with children with down syndrome, cerebral palsy, autism, and hearing impairments, but I had never worked with visually impaired children. Mrs. Corum had a connection with the Georgia Academy of the Blind (GAB), and I leaped at the opportunity to intern there.
I was excited for something new and unfamiliar. I was paired with Mrs. Amy Bardash, the ELA and study skills teacher at GAB. A few weeks later, I nervously prepared for my first day as a GAB intern. I was freaking out especially about what to wear. I was worried I would not dress right, or the students wouldn’t like me, and that turned out to be the opposite.
In the Senior Capstone program, students create a blog on WordPress so Mrs. Corum can track participants’ progress, and eventually prepare students for the final presentations. What I loved most at GAB was the small class sizes, which felt more like a gathering than a lesson. Mrs. Bardash taught VI (visually impaired) and VI+ (slightly more visually impaired with minor cognitive disabilities). I observed closely, focusing on her teaching strategies and the students’ reactions to these strategies. Mrs. Bardash’s teaching techniques were unique and creative, including eating a chocolate and jalapeno covered chip to help students learn about descriptive adjectives.
In addition to teaching techniques, I learned about the incredible technology schools have access to for visually impaired students. The “brailler,” similar to a typewriter, allows students to type their papers and produce them with tactile braille on the paper, so they can read what they typed. A more advanced tool I worked with first hand is a “note taker.” These note takers are the GAB equivalent of the Mount de Sales’ iPads. Each device costs from $7,000-$10,000 and are chargeable note takers, web surfers, calculators, braille translators, and gaming devices. They are truly remarkable.
I also experienced a MCN (Multiple Cognitive Needs) classroom setting, where the students were visually impaired with severe cognitive impairments. In this classroom setting, I learned about active learning, a teaching technique using physical materials with varying textures to learn signals and cues for the classroom. This is a technique I one day hope to use in my own classroom.
The Senior Capstone experience gave me the opportunity to open up my horizons and allowed me to better equip myself for my higher education and future career.
Mount de Sales Academy is a private Catholic school located in Macon, GA, and serves students in Bibb, Houston, Jones, Monroe, Peach and other surrounding counties. MDS is sponsored and inspired by the Sisters of Mercy. Since 1876, MDS has served a diverse college-preparatory community of learners—students and teachers alike—who are poised to discover, challenged to innovate, and motivated to serve.