volunteers sitting with children who are blind

November 13, 2020

As a certified teacher of the visually impaired, Marianne Denning has worked with people from ages 4 to 103, yet she still finds herself learning as much as teaching.

“Each student has their own unique skill, own personality,” Marianne says. “You can’t expect them to change to meet you; you have to change to meet them.”

Marianne has been part of the Clovernook Center volunteer family for 20 years, including three successive years at our Ohio Regional Braille Challenge. Volunteering at Clovernook Center has helped her learn how to sharpen her own skills as an end user, so she can do her best when working with students.

Following are three important lessons Marianne has learned from the Braille Challenge and Clovernook Center.

1. Braille is not just for the blind. “I want to get rid of the myth that only totally blind people need to learn braille. I hear people who are losing their vision say, ‘I don’t need to learn braille because I still have some vision left.’ In fact, people who have low vision often experience eye fatigue from reading print, even if the print is enlarged.”

2. The earlier braille is learned, the better. Quite often, the winners of the Braille Challenge are those who began learning braille in preschool. “If you lose sight later in life… you should begin learning braille as soon as possible. It isn’t like learning a new language. Learning braille is learning a new method of written communication.”

3. A lack of vision does not mean you lack competitive spirit. The kids who win the Braille Challenge really prepare, practicing exercises that may be in the challenge and working on their reading speed. This competitiveness is not limited to young kids, either. “I know somebody now in her 20s who participated in the Braille Challenge, and she still talks about winning and how awesome it was.”

Lastly, Marianne says, learning is an exercise that takes two, regardless of age. If a student struggles, then Marianne finds a new way to teach. That’s a lesson we can all learn from.

Read more from this edition of The Perspective:

The Perspective: November Letter from Clovernook Center’s President

The Perspective: Clovernook Employees Make a National Impression

The Perspective: ‘Grammar Maven’ Cissy Lincoln Proves Every Word Counts

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