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Special Education Professor Recognized by the Wisconsin Association for the Education of the Blind and Visually Impaired
On October 19, 2012 Sister Mary Karen Oudeans, OSF, PhD, Professor of Special Education at Silver Lake College of the Holy Family, was presented the Special Recognition Award by the Wisconsin Association for the Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired. Sr. Mary Karen has worked tirelessly to promote and improve education for visually impaired students, their future educators, and other professionals in the field of Blindness and Low Vision. In 2000, Silver Lake College became and continues to be, the only institution in Wisconsin where educators can become certified as a Teacher of the Visually Impaired. “We are consistently receiving great evaluations. Our instructors come from the field, bringing their experience and expertise directly from the classroom to the student which is essential to the future of special education,” states Sr. Mary Karen.
In the summer of 2012, the seventh cohort of students studying to attain Licensure as Teachers of the Visually Impaired began their coursework at Silver Lake College. Teacher of the Visually Impaired (TVI) is a two year cycle of courses offered on weekends in order to make it accessible to people currently in the workforce. “What is essential to note about the program,” states Sr. Mary Karen, “is that students work closely with teachers in the field in order to provide them with the most current and best practice in the field of vision.” The program which began in 2000 is a cooperative venture with the Department of Instruction and the Wisconsin School for the Blind and Visually Impaired. “It is a statewide program,” explains Sr. Mary Karen, “however, Silver Lake College is the only location in the state to offer licensure for teachers of the visually impaired.” Prior to the program at SLC, Wisconsin teachers had to go out of the state in order to receive training. Assistant Professor of Special Education, Sister Rosalyn Muraski, was among the first cohort to complete the program. “It broadened my whole view of things we take for granted and what it’s like for people who have lost their vision,” she states.
TVI is one of four elective strands offered as part of the Master of Arts and Special Education program at Silver Lake College; however, it can also be taken as a licensure option only. Many of the TVI students come to the program with licensure in General Education or another sector of Special Education seeking to expand their knowledge and skills to the visually impaired population. Visual impairment is considered a low incidence disability because it has a smaller population of affected individuals as compared to the population of learning or emotionally disabled individuals; however, within the visually impaired population there are many students with other disabilities. “Being able to utilize the vision component of special education allows teachers to serve students better because the range of student need is wide,” states Sr. Mark Karen. While there is a nationwide shortage of teachers certified to work with special education students, Silver Lake College stands at the forefront of improving education for the 21st century.
Pictured are instructors in the visual impairment licensure program at Silver Lake College: (left to right) Lisa Tomberlin (Monona Grove, WI), Sr. Mary Karen Oudeans (Silver Lake College), Dawn Anderson (Holland, MI) and Karen Schultz (Wausau, WI).