Mary Bilancio has been a teacher of the visually impaired (TVI), for a lifetime. Besides teaching in the FSDB Blind Department, “Miss B,” as students call her, has provided outreach services to blind and visually impaired children and their families. Jacksonville’s Folio Weekly once cited her as the expert from FSDB who coached an overwhelmed and anxious family through their blind albino child’s toddler years. Miss B’s elementary classroom is a warm and friendly place, with many points of interest such as a rock and gem center, for her second graders to explore.
How long have you worked at FSDB?
I did my internship here in 1980 with 5th and 6th graders. I worked as a parent advisor through the FSDB Outreach program in Marion County from 1988 until my return to FSDB in 2004, where I hope to remain until my retirement in 2022.
How did you come to work here? (Your career pathway)
The first baby that I worked with through the FSDB Parent-Infant Program grew up and enrolled in high school here on campus. Later, when I searched for employment opportunities on the Internet, I saw two FSDB jobs that were tailor-made for me.
What made you choose the VI population?
FSU had a large population of college students who were blind. I used to watch them travel to classes with amazement. I became fascinated by how the brain processes information without sight.
What do you enjoy about teaching blind and visually impaired students?
My passion is teaching reading. When a struggling reader begins to read my heart is filled with joy and pride. Also, the insights about the world through the perceptions of the people without sight have shown me a pathway of understanding like no other.
What are your teaching passions of late?
This year we have been focusing on a letter of the alphabet each week, inspired by our kindergarten classroom. This week marks the end of our focus with the letter Z. We explored hands-on objects, leading to strengthening concept development and vocabulary. Soon we will create a book with our ABC word list. Our second graders can now alphabetize to the 3rd letter. We also incorporated cursive handwriting with two of our large print student readers. They are so motivated to learn this lost art of communication!
How, as a veteran teacher, have you seen the VI field change?
Technology has always been a significant component for blind and visually impaired students, helping to bridge the gap towards accessibility and communication skills.
With your vast experience in the VI field, what would you tell parents to be sure to do with their blind or visually impaired children?
Love them and instill independence to help them reach their potential.
By Christi Boortz, Instructional Services
The Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind is a tuition-free state public school and outreach center available to eligible Pre-K and K-12 students who are deaf/hard of hearing, blind/visually impaired, or deafblind. At FSDB, students learn how to do more, be more, and achieve more, fulfilling our vision of preparing them for a lifetime of success. FSDB gratefully accepts private donations to support vital programs that directly benefit students and are not paid by state general revenue funds. For a campus tour or to inquire about eligibility for enrollment, contact FSDB Parent Services at 904-827-2212 voice or 904-201-4527 videophone. For more information, visit www.fsdbk12.org