Michelle Shea: Keeping Her Promise

Note: With school starting again in September, I decided to interview one of the lifeguards at our condo pool, because her dedication to her dream is very inspiring!

Michelle with a sight-impaired child at Overbrook School for the Blind in Philadelphia.

Michelle Shea has known that she wants to be a teacher of the blind since she was five. She has never wavered from this dream/goal, and now that she will be practice teaching in special education, her dream is about to be realized.

How could someone so young know what she wants to be? For Michelle, the answer came in the form of her older sister Melissa, eight years her senior. Melissa was born with a missing X chromosome and other medical problems, namely, reduced vision that eventually led to blindness when she was 12. Melissa was also unable to speak, although her hearing was fine. Sadly, she died in her early twenties, but not before Michelle (and her younger brother) had learned to be caregivers with their mom for their older sister.

Michelle’s (deceased) sister Melissa who inspired Michelle’s career choice

Michelle is attending Kutztown University and will receive a degree in Special Education/Blind & Visually Impaired, as well as Elementary Education. Her goal is to obtain a position at the Overbrook School for the Blind in Philadelphia, a school where Michelle and her brother spent many hours observing when their sister was there. (Michelle’s picture at the top was taken when she volunteered at this school.)

Perkins Braille writer for longer pages & documents

At Kutztown, Michelle studied elementary and special education, with classes in designing an I.E.P. (Independent Education Plan), behavior intervention and physical and mental disabilities. There were also classes explicitly geared to teaching visually impaired or blind children, such as Braille, Nimith Math code and eye anatomy.

One of Michelle’s many textbooks

Eventually, Michelle will go back to school after working a couple of years in order to take a series of classes in American Sign Language (ASL). She then go on to earn her Master’s Degree in order to each the deaf and hard of hearing. Because her older sister could not talk, Michelle actually learned rudimentary sign language (using her fingers on Melissa’s palm) with her sister, but she wants to have the formal training.

Braille slate & stylus for writing Braille notes

I admire Michelle for her dedication and commitment to her goal.  She told me that the last words her sister heard was Michelle’s voice telling her she would study to be a teacher so she could help people like Melissa. Whoever says that young people of today have no sense or responsibility or commitment has not met Michelle Shea!

P.S. Many thanks to Michelle for taking the time to allow me to interview her at length and for providing the photos.

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