Shawnee Mission teacher of visually impaired wins Braille Institute’s Teacher of the Year award

Jeri Hile has been named the National Braille Institute’s Teacher of the Year. Photo credit Shawnee Mission School District.

Shawnee Mission teacher of the visually impaired Jeri Hile is the Braille Institute’s 2018 Teacher of the Year.

The prestigious honor comes after an extensive selection process, in which teachers of the visually impaired from the United State and Canada are nominated by their peers, and then vetted by The Braille Challenge National Advisory Committee. Hile will be recognized at the Braille Challenge National Finals in Los Angeles next month.

“She is an innovative educator who promotes braille literacy through creative lesson plans and technology,” said Braille Institute President Peter Mindnich of Hile. “Jeri’s impact on her students’ lives is immeasurable, and we feel privileged to be able to honor her this way.”

Hile first got involved in braille instruction when she saw an ad in the newspaper in which a church was seeking a braillist. She took a course, got certified, and went on to work as a volunteer. Soon enough, though, she landed in Shawnee Mission, and went on to get a master’s degree and teaching certification. Under her tutelage, a number of her students have had successful showings at regional and national braille competitions.

“More than anything else, I want my students to be confident in themselves, their skills and abilities—and know that being blind is just a small part of who they are,” Hile said. “I encourage them to become independent and believe that they can achieve anything as long as they are willing to work hard and learn the necessary skills.”

Her dedication to her students led to her nomination for the Teacher of the Year Award by a Shawnee Mission family, which noted in the nomination form that she “knows how to push her students to want to learn, and not just learn, but to excel.”

Aundrayah Shermer, whose daughter Meg is currently a student at SM East and has worked with Hile, seconded that notion.

“She is phenomenal and one of the best teachers for the blind in the country,” Shermer said of Hile. “I am so thrilled for her.”