Certified Teacher of the Visually Impaired
Sugar Land, TX, USA
Field: Instruction of the Blind and Visually Impaired
At almost 71 years of age, Gloria Giersch Vaughn has not slowed down one bit since officially retiring just a short time ago. Formerly a teacher of blind and visually impaired students, she is now a private consultant to this same specialized population, working to improve educational standards and create more learning and job opportunities. When she first became a teacher, Mrs. Vaughn was enthralled by the capacity of students with multiple disabilities to grasp subjects with the same ease as nondisabled students. She marveled at the children’s enthusiasm and resolve not to be inhibited by their handicaps — a fervor which she similarly exhibited as their educator and mentor.
Before establishing Vaughn Consultants, Mrs. Vaughn wrote a number of children’s stories, including “The Flannel Board Storybook,” which she co-authored and published with Frances S. Taylor in 1986. Additionally, she compiled grants to acquire new technology that would enhance the lessons she delivered in the classroom to impaired students as well as the teachers who would prepare them for the future. Throughout the years, she received many service awards, though none were as rewarding as witnessing the impact she made on each child’s life. Her involvement with the National Association for the Education of Young Children and the Association for the Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired has helped her to gain many contacts within the industry who share her passion for teaching and making a difference.
Mrs. Vaughn received a Bachelor of Science in Music and Education in 1962 from Texas Wesleyan University; a Master of Science in Psychology from Vanderbilt University in 1975; and an Educational Specialist degree in childhood development also from Vanderbilt University in 1978. She is certified as a teacher of the visually impaired by the University of Texas, as well as a member of the Surrey Association for Visual Impairment and the Council for Exceptional Children.
Gifted in many areas, Mrs. Vaughn creates beadwork, designs jewelry, plays music, and sings.
Conversation with Gloria Giersch Vaughn
Worldwide Publishing: What would you like to promote most about yourself or your business?
Gloria Giersch Vaughn: One of the things I’m really interested in is getting other people interested in the field because there’s a 50 percent shortage of people working in it. My friend and I are starting a school to teach teachers how to work with people who are blind or visually impaired.
How did you become involved in this profession?
I’ve always worked with young children, and my husband wanted to come to Texas to work at a medical center. We came back here and I started substitute teaching for a small country district. I ended up with four blind children in my classroom. Two were children who had no vision and two were multiply impaired kids. I had a lot of experience in childhood education and there was a teacher of the visually impaired who came to work with me, but she never seemed to do anything with the kids. I started doing some research and working with them. [People from] the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired came to my classroom and said, “You need to be doing this full time.” I went back to graduate school and I’ve been doing it ever since.
What is the most rewarding aspect of your career?
To see children blossom, especially kids who are academic. Research shows that people who are visually impaired are the least underemployed people.
The least underemployed? Why is that?
It was assumed for a long time that they could only do certain things. I find that kids who are academic and visually impaired can do almost anything anyone else can do, sometimes even better.
What has been your greatest professional accomplishment to date?
With each stage of my life, great things happen. I became a storyteller and travelled all over the country telling stories; I’ve had start centers and trained people. I wrote grants and taught music, art and dance in junior colleges. At each of those phases in my life, I received accolades from my peers. It’s sort of like building a house; you build a foundation, put up the walls and the roof, and it becomes like a home.
Do you have any short-term or long-term career goals?
My short-term goal is to find grant money to start a school. The long-term goal is to open that school in Texas.
What have you done to achieve that goal?
I’ve been doing a lot of research on the Internet about rules and regulations.
What is the most difficult obstacle or challenge you have faced in pursuit of your goals?
The most difficult time was when my youngest son was 10 years old, hit by a truck and was in a coma. I had to go through all of the rehabilitation with a kid with a traumatic brain injury. They told me he would have to be in a home and sheltered workshop all of his life, but I said, “You wait and see.” It took many years of rehab, but he’s doing very well.
On what topics do you consider yourself to be an expert?
Teaching the blind and visually impaired.
How do you remain current in your profession?
I read everything I get my hands on and I’m going to a conference in two weeks. Two years ago I went to the Royal Blind School in Edinburgh, Scotland and to Birmingham, England to observe their schools. I’m interested in how blind children who are multiply impaired — especially deaf-blind — communicate. In Birmingham, I went to the International Conference on Typography and Visual Communication and there were people from all over the world, showing how they developed materials for people who were totally blind. I want to take the children’s stories I’ve written and make them into tactical format, but that’s kind of on the back burner.
What makes you a valuable resource in your industry?
I have intuitiveness with kids and I’m a good researcher.
What is the most significant issue facing your profession today?
The lack of people in the field. The universities only take programs that are big money makers and since this is such a low-incidence population, it’s not a popular thing to fund. When budgets get cut, it’s usually the kids in special needs areas that suffer.
What advice can you offer to fellow members in your industry?
Take time once in a while to recharge your batteries. It’s an extremely rewarding field to be in because it’s on the cutting edge. Every day something new in technology comes out and it’s an area you can grow in.
What are you passionate about?
Quality programming, taking the time to do my job, and being open to new ideas.
Who have been your mentors or people who have greatly influenced you?
My mentors were people at the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired — Cyril Miller, Dr. Phil Hatland and Craig Axelrod, who is a miracle worker.