Committed to excellence: How PV is still honoring their mission statement



Sophomore Niyati Patel using her BraileSense educational tool to complete her homework for the day.

Mukul Kulkarni, Copy Editor

It is without question that the COVID pandemic has caused a complete change in all aspects of education. 

Some significant changes include PV switching to a hybrid system during the 2020-2021 school year, splitting the student body in half and hosting school for each half every alternating day. The Pleasant Valley School District itself became a one-to-one school district, assigning computers to each student to ensure that each student has access to the Internet. 

With these changes in mind, in staying true to their mission statement of providing quality opportunities for all students, PV has ensured individuals with disabilities are provided with these resources, as well.

Recently, another blind student was enrolled at PVHS, meaning there are now two blind students in total at the high school. In order to provide the best education for these two students, one noticeable change was the school’s quick implementation of the new braille room signs outside all rooms. Braille has also been added to lunch pin pads in the cafeteria, now making it possible for the blind students themselves to enter in their pin number to pay for lunch. 

The goal of these changes is to create a new level of autonomy among blind students that was unable to be achieved before. “[The new additions] have definitely increased the students’ independence,” special education teacher Stephanie Hammes explains. “By increasing the independence of our students, it allows them to fit in [as] smoothly as possible with the rest of the student body. Nobody with a disability wants to draw attention to themselves.”

Another substantial change PV has applied to help the blind students is hiring Hammes. She is responsible for communicating with the blind students’ teachers in advance so that she can translate the material into braille and find tactile material for the blind students. 

Prior to Hamme’s hiring, teachers would spend hours adapting their curriculum and material for the blind students on their own. 

It would be difficult for the teachers to have access to the right braille materials or even know what materials are available. “So, it’s my job to make sure the blind students have the right tactile materials so that they can feel what the other students are seeing,” Hammes expressed.

Hammes stressed how important having the right material is for the best education for blind students. “Everything has to feel different. Their hands are their eyes so, if everything looks different to us, then everything has to feel different for them,” Hammes explained. 

Hammes uses a braille embosser, a special printer that embeds the braille onto paper that is also a recent addition at PV, to translate classroom material into meaningful braille for the blind students. 

The embosser has greatly improved the methods in which the students receive their notes and assignments by cutting down the time it takes to translate the notes into adequate, tactile text. “Now teachers just email me and I get [the materials ready] a lot quicker than before,” Hammes said. 

Sophomore Niyati Patel is one of the blind students and is grateful for the many changes that have been made over the years. 

BrailleSense is a small-but-mighty educational note-taking device that Patel uses for various purposes. “I can listen to music, use a calculator, type, open a web browser and even send emails,” Patel explained. The small device, packed with its extensive capabilities, is carried everywhere Patel goes, reducing many limitations that were once a hindrance to her before. 

Even the smallest of changes that PV has made to make the blind students’ school experience better has made a positive impact on Patel. “A hook for my cane has been added to all my classes. Instead of constantly folding my cane after entering each class, I can just hang it on the hook,” Patel said, excitedly.

Over the past few years, PV has made many systemic, top-to-bottom changes, largely due to COVID. It is reassuring to know many of the changes, ranging from small-scale hooks to a myriad of posted braille signs, are benefiting not just some students but all students, proving PV is truly committed to excellence.