Editorial Corner

Editorial-Comment Page

We welcome your editorials, comments, and feedback in this section.

Send your comments and editorials to Kerri Norick at knorick@msdb.k12.mt.us

Please keep your comments and opinions on issues and avoid personal attacks and inappropriate language. Failure to follow these guidelines may result in your comments being removed. Thank you

How I Serve One of the Largest In Area and Smallest Populated Areas In The Nation!

By Pam Boespflug
Outreach VI consultive teacher for MSDB

Portland State Program to Close?

By Blue Bickford

Thoughts from the “Old Guy”
By Ken McCulloch

We would be naïve if we think that the economic downturn won’t affect our profession in any way. Who knows what will be in store for us in the next few years. This we do know…

  1. Jobs will become scarcer and more competitive. That will not only affect VI worker but also the consumers we work with. The bubble of opportunity for handicapped workers may have burst and the era of “accommodation” may become the era of “acclimation”. We need to encourage our working-aged clients to become more and better educated and very specialized, able to offer their employer services they can’t live without! Perhaps if our clients are unemployed, now is the time to encourage them to take more training until job opportunities improve. One thing that could improve in the next few years is college or higher education federal money.
  2. Any legislative cuts in funding may affect services, travel, special programs, and jobs. Now is not the time to cut your membership to AER or any professional organization. We need to work together to succeed. We need to brainstorm to make our conferences more affordable and meaningful. You may need to make an effort to attend these conferences on your own without relying on agency funding. Plan ahead!! Determine ways to carpool and cooperate on transportation.
  3. Keep the communication window open! Let us know of any problems in your area in which a united professional organization can help. Perhaps we can help write letters or help educate others of the needs in your area. Use the website!!

Two years ago we wouldn’t have dreamed our largest banks would be in bankruptcy or the Chinese would threaten to purchase our large auto makers. The world is changing faster than we can fathom. One thing is for sure, we need to stick together!

With the upcoming launch of our website, I am hoping we will now be able to make some changes to the “newsletter” that will increase the timely dissemination of information and decrease the huge work load on the Secretary/Treasurer position.  With the Treasurer doing the finances for the conferences, dealing with the usual tax and correspondence, etc. it is a beast of a commitment and we need to see if we can alleviate some of that.

What do you all think about using the board, especially the state reps to work with Ken to update state information?  The Secretary and President could work with the board to update chapter information. Ken, would it be easier to set some timelines for those submissions or just on an as provided basis?  Rennie is in the process of compiling a newsletter at this time…I would like to see it include information on using the web site as an electronic newsletter:

  • –          updated regularly
  • –          e-mails sent to chapter when we have a lot of new information to remind them to check it out
  • –          solicit a list of members who would still like to be sent a paper copy and have the Sec. facilitate the printing of information from the website and mailing it to them.
  • –          Members using state reps to get new information on the web

What do you think?


Leslie Bechtel Van Orman

Wyoming Department of Education

Services for the Visually Impaired

Wyoming has the smallest population in our tri-state area.  Because the population as a whole is so small, the number of individuals with a visual disability is also relatively small.  For this reason, Wyoming has never had a school for the blind.  Services for the Visually Impaired, a division of the state department of education, provides consultative services for clients from birth through death.  With caseloads of 200-400 clients each, the six consultants for SVI cannot provide direct services.

Several school districts in Wyoming have hired their own TVI/COMS to provide services for students with visual disabilities in their home districts. Without a state school, it makes economic sense for the districts.  When Weston County School District #7 hired me in 1988, my salary cost the district half of what an out-of-state placement at a school for the blind would cost. Our state is generous in reimbursement, so 85 percent of my salary was reimbursed to the district the following year, along with 100 percent of equipment and supply purchases that exceeded 100 dollars. Another option that was considered was private contractors, who are rarely available more than once a month and who have a hefty price around 800 dollars a day.  Other small districts in Wyoming, have made similar decisions in the years since then.

There is more than one advantage. The student stays in the local community and schools.  With small caseloads, the TVI/COMS can devote maximum amounts of time and attention to each child.  The districts have  highly qualified staff to case manage and teach visually disabled students.  The TVI/COMS can assist in the child find efforts of the district.  (While I was at Weston County #7, we identified three other students with visual disabilities out of a population of 300.)  Since a TVI is a certified teacher, students with other disabilities can be served by the TVI, if the caseload allows it.

Disadvantages are also present.  If a district hires a TVI for one or two students, when they move away or graduate, the job changes or is eliminated.  If there are only a few students on the caseload, the TVI may wear all the hats; case manager, counselor, para-professional, adaptive PE instructor, etc.  The TVI/COMS may be professionally isolated, as other colleagues in the school district may not understand some of the principals of teaching or duties that are unique to educating individuals with a visual disability.  The students don’t have peers with the same disability to relate to either.

Hiring their own TVI/COMS may be the best solution available to many districts, though.  It keeps the student in their home and allows them to attend school with their friends and neighbors, which an out-state-placement would not do.  It provides appropriate daily instruction, which private contractors and the state department of education’s SVI consultants cannot do.  If done properly, it is the least restrictive environment for students with a visual disability.

Jerry Baker of Sheridan, Wyoming has been my friend and professional colleague since 1986.  When I met him in 1986, he was the president of the Northern Rockies Chapter of AER and working as a Teacher of the Visually Impaired for Billings Public Schools in Montana.  At that time Jerry was also the director for the Billings Low Vision Clinic.  In addition to his two jobs and his AER commitment, he was a board member for Blind Athletes of Montana and he was on the Yellowstone County Vision Advisory Board.

The following year, Jerry had the opportunity to return to his native state of Wyoming, when a Consultant position opened for Services for the Visually Impaired in Sheridan.  Jerry has worked for SVI, a division of the state department of education, providing consultation and resources to clients, ranging from birth to death.  His job includes managing NLS applications and equipment, assisting clients with Montgomery Trust Fund applications, and managing quota funds for APH, in addition to a myriad of other duties.  In his years with SVI, he has been both an assistant director and director for the Allen H. Stewart Camp for the blind, which served both children and adults.   Jerry is the current liason for the state of Wyoming with the American Printing House for the Blind and The National Library Service.   Jerry has also hosted one Mobile Operation Project, to provide intensive training in compensatory skills to adults within his region.

These are but a few of the accomplishments that led the members of the Northern Rockies Chapter of AER to present Jerry Baker with the Frank Smith Award for his contributions to the blind in our tri-state area.  Jerry is also a previous recipient of the H. Smith Shumway award for his specific contributions to NRAER.

Submitted by

Mary Rich-Williams


The Nemeth code, the math braille code that has been given too little emphasis and attention in teacher training programs and consequently it directly effects how students that are blind are taught. Thankfully trends are changing, but I do not believe the Nemeth Code is given the emphasis it deserves. Children attending private and public pre-schools receive instructions in math visually and auditorily, with emphasis on tactual components.  Kindergarteners learn math in much the same way. The tactile part is very important to all kids but I believe reading and writing math is important to all as well. It is wrong not to start introducing the numbers written in Nemeth Code at the same time other kids learn numbers.  Giving parents information and material on the Nemeth Code would help in introducing pre-school Children numbers.  Think about how old you were when you saw your first numbers.

Math is a complex language that is taught in small bits at a time which helps the complexities come more natural to the child. At a very early age making comparisons between the Literary and Nemeth codes are not necessary, just make the information available. The technique of giving auditory math lessons when everyone one else is writing is like tying a kids hands behind his back. If we wait to introduce Nemeth, or written math until the end of kindergarten or the fifth grade or 9th grade it’s really like teaching math in a foreign language after they have learned it in spoken English. There is no reason to teach math auditorily to children with blindness when other kids are reading and writing it.  If we introduce the math code after everyone else has been using it for a year or two or 10 then the kid has to play catch-up trying to learn this strange code along with whatever math concept is being taught. Frustration sets in. Think about learning to write math in fourth grade after never seeing a number in your life.


Pamela Boespflug is a certified Teacher of the Visually Impaired. She is currently working as a VI Outreach consultant for the Montana School for the Deaf and Blind.  Prior to her current position she has been a classroom teacher for the blind and a supervising teacher for over thirty years.  She has taught many areas including algebra, chemistry, middle school and elementary science and math (using the Nemeth Code) to students with blindness and low vision.  She has also taught college classes in person and on-line (including a Nemeth Class).  She has presented at workshops in state as well as at the CSUN conference.  She is an expert in computer technology for the visually impaired.