Jillian Mills always wanted to be a teacher and having low vision wasn’t going to stop her from following her dreams.
Being the only low vision student while studying for her teaching degree, Jill says she struggled to find someone to relate to.
“I persevered and enjoyed the course anyway. I got my work done and just got on with it.”
Jill has now been teaching for over 20 years and is currently a secondary teacher at Feilding High School. She teaches three classes; two year 12 Tourism classes and a year 13 Gateway class.
Jill says there isn’t much difference between her and her sighted colleagues except that she likes to keep things “old school”.
“I don’t do so much of the ‘alternative’ stuff. I keep it simple, none of that fancy PowerPoint stuff” she laughs.
Of course there are the minor challenges that are affected by her sight, but nothing she can’t handle.
“I can’t take part in all the activities as the other teachers. For example I can’t take the time or be a judge for swimming sports.”
In class, Jill says that the students have laptops with programmes installed so they have access to class resources and recordings.
With students submitting work online and reports being sent by email, all Jill needs is her magnifier tool on her laptop. When she gets paper work, she uses physical magnifying tools or asks her husband to read it out for her. Having good accessibility means she can easily review her students work.
As for student behaviour, Jill says that many would be surprised that they don’t take advantage of her sight.
“They treat me in a kind and sensitive way and are always willing to lend me a helping hand. There are always those troublemakers in class; I just put them at the front so I can keep a close eye.
“I love what I do, it is tremendously rewarding. I always feel like I’m making a difference imparting my knowledge. It’s always a highlight seeing their faces light up when I’m teaching them something new.”
She has some advice to other aspiring teachers in the blindness community:
“Work hard and gain your qualifications. I would encourage more blind people to do it; there is definitely a place for you in the system.
“The important thing is to be honest with what you can and can’t do. Having good support from your employer is crucial to ensure you get all the tools you need. All you have to do is ask.”