Vicky Weaver Prahin’s classroom is the world. Each day, she sits behind her home computer and teaches Latin and English to students around the globe—China, Vietnam, Thailand, India, Africa. With the different cultures and different beliefs, it’s a massive undertaking.
Factor in the one aspect Prahin and all her students have in common, though, and suddenly the world shrinks—they are all blind. Remove sight from the equation, and the difficulties and dilemmas they share easily overcomes the distance and differences between them.
“What’s fascinating to me about students from other countries is that they seem to be more motivated and do better than American students,” says Prahin, a 1977 graduate. “They don’t take for granted the opportunities we do, especially people who are blind in other countries. They don’t have many opportunities. We provide a lot of services for those folks.”
Prahin teaches for the Hadley School for the Blind, a correspondence school outside Chicago. Blind since age 2, she knows the hurdles placed before the blind. She teaches life skills courses that are adaptable to any country, in addition to teaching the standard academic fare. While mostly using Braille—an international language—to communicate with her students, she also uses e-mail, audiocassettes and the telephone. “One of the advantages I have since I’m not in front of a traditional classroom is that I can give the students individual attention,” she says. “In my opinion, it’s more rewarding because you get to know the individuals. You find out about people and what they’re all about.”