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a photo of Michelle smiling with shoulder length hair and is standing outside with a light green shirt on pinned to a cork board Meet APH Scholar Michelle Shanley

We would like to congratulate Michelle Shanley, nominated by EOT, Kristin Oien, as a 2021-2022 APH Scholar.

Michelle Shanley has been a teacher for 27 years. “When I graduated from St. Cloud State University, I had my Learning Disabilities and Mild-Moderate Handicap Licensure,” said Michelle. “I had a sight-based classroom of developmental cognitive disabilities, and within that classroom, after a few years, I had a student that was blind. The teacher that was in my classroom said, ‘Why don’t you get another licensure?'” As there was no related program offered in Minnesota at that time, current Teachers of the Blind and Visually Impaired (TBVIs) worked through a joint program to offer classes to future educators. “Classes were through St. Cloud State, Bethel University, Minnesota State University, Mankato, and University of Minnesota, Duluth,” she said. “It’s been 14 years now since I entered the field of blind and visually impaired working as a TBVI.” Today, Michelle works in district 917 and serves as an itinerant TBVI for students ages birth through 21 in district 192 in Farmington, Minnesota, which is one of the southern suburbs of the Minneapolis Saint Paul area.

 

Using APH Products with Students

Michelle incorporates a variety of APH products into her lessons. She said, “My students have highly benefited from the products created and distributed by APH.” After being introduced to LEGO Braille Bricks, one of her students can now read 16 letters independently. “The ReadWrite Stand and the All-In-One Board have had a significant impact on the placement of educational materials in addition to creating a great example of how low clutter and high contrast help my low vision students,” said Michelle. “I have demonstrated and shared the Lots of Dots: Learning My ABC’s book with the classrooms that my students are in. When the mainstream teacher works on the letter of the day, using the grid and foam circles, the teacher is also able to share a visual for the sighted peers in my student’s class. At the same time, the student with a visual impairment uses a Pop-A-Cell to demonstrate the letter. During free time, we have observed peers ‘making braille letters’  using the grid.”

Michelle loves working with students of all ages and abilities in a variety of settings. She said, “With the babies, it’s fun to show the parents how to teach their child. A lot of it is so much the same, but yet it’s also different. When their kids can do things because the parents have helped them, the parents have so much pride.”

For older students, every day in the classroom is different from the last. “I think the biggest thing that I’ve learned from my students is how accepting they are of each other,” she said. “The only caveat they have for judging you is how you treat them or make them feel. It’s such an innocent, pure reason to like someone else because of how they show you and how they treat you. The students that I work with are always just so happy and excited to be around others and be accepted and be part of the group. It really teaches others so much about how good life is.”

To general education teachers who have a blind or visually impaired student in their classroom, Michelle advises, “Don’t underestimate a student with visual impairments’ ability to succeed and do what the sighted peers are doing. Ask the student questions rather than me. If the student’s not able to answer, then I can fill in. See the student first rather than come to see me. Students just want to be a part of the classroom. Even if you think that there’s no way to adapt something or to describe it so that the student can be a part of it, try and troubleshoot and figure out a way to involve everybody.”

On top of her academic responsibilities, for the last four years, Michelle has been a member of the Minnesota APH & Accessible Materials Community of Practice. “Through this committee, I have had the opportunity to assist in decision-making and purchasing of APH products for use in parent training, professional development activities, and placement in the Minnesota Resource Library,” she said. EOT, Kristin Oien, added, “She is also an active participant in our Statewide Vision Meetings, and has suggested APH products for our professional development in the past.”

 

Looking Toward the Future

When asked about her hopes for the future, Michelle looked inward at her desires as a TBVI. She will continue to serve her students and help them reach their goals. She also strives to be a good resource for students, parents, and teachers. “When parents are not sure about their child’s future, I will help them find answers and guidance,” Michelle said.

 

More About the Program

Each year, EOTs are asked to nominate someone they feel provides outstanding service in their region. Through a scholarship, awardees attend the APH Annual Meeting in Louisville, KY as a guest of APH. APH pays for all expenses in attending the conference, including transportation to the meeting, conference registration, and hotel accommodations.

Stay tuned to our website to learn about another scholar each month.

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