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State teacher shortage extends to schools for deaf, visually impaired

 The South Dakota School for the Blind and Visually Impaired
The South Dakota School for the Blind and Visually Impaired

The shortage of teachers has touched every corner of the state. That includes the specialists who can provide a quality education to students despite visual or audio handicaps.

The state School for the Blind and Visually Impaired, along with the state School for the Deaf, constitute South Dakota’s specialty institutions for students in need of focused educators.

Dan Trefz is the superintendent at the School for the Blind and Visually Impaired. He said they feel the teacher deficit.

"I think all schools in South Dakota feel it in different ways based on what specialties they’re looking for," Trefz said. "Of course, there’s a shortage of special education teachers, we see that as well because ours not only need to be certified teachers, they also have to have a specialized certification as a teacher of the visually impaired.”

That visually impaired teaching endorsement is offered at Northern State University, and special education teacher positions are among the most needed across the state.

“Most of our teachers are special education teachers," Trefz said. "Instruction and teaching on how to work with students that are blind or visually impaired. Orientation, mobility skills, braille, other teaching strategies that a teacher might need to do this job.”

Trefz said with each student comes a different condition and need.

“We do also teach students who have visual impairments, so they might need enlargement devices, or they may use screen readers or zoom software on their computers," Trefz said. "So, having those teachers trained on how to use those different adaptations is really what we need to do here.”

Trefz said he’s concerned about the ratio of educators retiring to young teachers entering the field.

C.J. Keene is a Rapid City-based journalist covering the legal system, education, and culture