Michael "Mike" Zuaro teaches various subjects and grade levels to students with learning disabilities in the Blind Middle School. On any given day, he might be reading aloud from different genres or discussing events in American History.
Zuaro asks questions to tie in student's life experiences "text to self." During history lessons, he makes the use of analogy and metaphor to build students' knowledge. For example, he contrasts the U.S. & Puerto Rico's present-day relationship with England and the U.S.'s relationship in colonial times. His students read from textbooks in a variety of formats—regular print, large print, magnification (devices), and braille. Zuaro is well-versed in these adaptations and provides expert support to students as he teaches.
Bulletin boards in Zuaro's classroom contain motivational posters. One poster explains that Franklin Delano Roosevelt, disabled at age 39 due to polio, was elected President of the United States (before term limits) a whopping four times. Another poster of Albert Einstein states that "Even Einstein Asked Questions," clearly meant to encourage students. Students comfortable enough to ask Zuaro anything—such as a query, "Am I reading this right?" amid a heavy-vernacular reading passage. Zuaro gently assured her that she was!
How did you come to be a teacher at FSDB? (Career Pathway)
Previously I worked at the Gaines Alternative Center as a drop-out prevention teacher with at-risk high school students. It was time for a change, so I applied for the Specific Learning Disabilities Resource Teacher position at FSDB in the Blind Department. That was 18 years ago.
Why did you choose to work with blind and visually impaired students?
I earned a master's degree in Specific Learning Disabilities because I have a learning disability. It is my way of giving back and helping students who struggle to realize they are capable of accomplishing their life goals. Working with students who are blind or low vision—and who also have SLD—that's just the icing on the cake.
What are your teaching passions?
I'm passionate about teaching American History. There is no better subject to share with young people than our nation's story. I've been fortunate to have the opportunity to teach American History to a group of 8th graders this year.
What lesson have you learned from your students most recently?
As I grow older, there have been times when I've stopped to remember what it's like to be a teenager. I think I remember, but then realize just because I was that age at one time in my life it doesn't make my own experiences "the expert guidelines" to go by for all teenage experiences past or present. I've learned to listen to my students and try to put myself in their shoes. That is a timeless philosophy, but it has been an effective approach to working with and supporting my students.
What do you do with your time outside the classroom?
I spend a lot of my time away from FSDB with my children. I have three kids—ages 8, 13, and 14. When I do have a few moments to myself, I enjoy fixing up my old Chevrolet pickup truck.
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