MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — This week’s Excellent Educator has a reputation for arriving early and staying late to meet the needs of her students who are visually impaired.
Beth McGarr is a teacher of the Blind/Visually Impaired for SWMetro Intermediate School District in Shakopee and Buffalo. Blind since birth herself, she inspires those around her to overcome adversity. It’s what makes her this week’s Excellent Educator.
“Right now, I’m encouraging this student to be more independent and explore and develop fine motor skills, so he can learn to explore his environment,” she said while helping a student.
On this day she is helping Blake at Red Oak Elementary in Shakopee reach his fullest potential.
“We have the braille, I’m letting him scribble, where he writes on the machine he presses the buttons, we’ll have him look at what he wrote even if it has no significance, it’s just dots, it’s encouraging him to write,” she said.
McGarr is part of a team that helps kids in several Twin Cities School Districts. She is currently assigned to travel between Buffalo-Hanover-Montrose and Shakopee School Districts and has an para who drives her where she needs to go. She also has a guide dog, Paige, to help with other tasks.
“Her job is primarily to guide me with the harness,” she said. “I have been blind since birth, I have a congenital inherited condition.”
McGarr says depending on the situation, she likes to use her experience to connect with families.
“With my more academic students, I will use my experience to work with them, but it also is relating to families too, especially kids who are fully academic and capable of participating in their education I try to show parents that their child is going to be able to accomplish their goals,” she said.
While she uses her story to show what is possible, it also inspires her to give back.
“I had teachers of the visually impaired who did what I do now and without them I would not be able to do any of the things I do now,” McGarr said. “I told myself that I was given the gift of good education and I wanted to give that to other students who have visual impairments.”