Frances Mary D'Andrea - University of Pittsburgh

Photo: Frances mary D'Andrea, NCLVI Fellow

Hello! My name is Frances Mary D'Andrea, and I currently live in Decatur, Georgia. I started teaching students who were blind or visually impaired in 1982 and happily assumed I’d be a teacher my entire life. But in 1995 I left the classroom for the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) to take advantage of the opportunity to promote braille literacy on a national scale by coordinating the federal grant "Braille Literacy Mentors in Training: The Next Generation." After completion of this grant, I then developed and coordinated literacy activities as director of AFB’s National Literacy Center.

My colleagues and I worked on a number of projects during the 10+ years I was at AFB. For example, I established the DOTS for Braille Literacy newsletter, and wrote and edited DOTS  for ten years. I am also co-author/editor (with Diane Wormsley) of Instructional Strategies for Braille Literacy, and co-editor/author (with Carol Farrenkopf) for Looking to Learn: Promoting Literacy for Students with Low Vision. I am co-author (with Anna Swenson) of The Braille Trail books, and helped to develop the Braille Bug online at AFB’s web site.

In June 2005 I left AFB because I wanted to be a teacher again. After reading volumes of journals and other periodicals describing new trends in education, I wanted to experience them first-hand. In August 2005 I took a part-time position in my local school system as an itinerant teacher of students with visual impairments. While leaving my job at AFB was difficult, it was the best decision I could have made. Teaching again after a ten-year hiatus has certainly helped me see the effect of recent national policies and regulations on students with visual disabilities, especially related to testing, to reading instruction, and on developing Individualized Education Plans. Recent changes in educational practices have redoubled my interest in creating public policy that keeps the unique needs of our students in the forefront, as well as the need to conduct new research that will shed light on the most promising practices for our students. In addition to research, I am interested in passing along what I learn to the next group of people who will become teachers. My experiences this past year have made me appreciate more than ever the creativity, resourcefulness, and enthusiasm of the good teachers I see in schools. With an acute shortage of teachers of students with visual impairments, we need to prepare thousands more to meet the need. I want to be part of that important work.

I received my bachelor's degree in special education for the visually impaired (and two other areas) from George Peabody College of Teachers, Nashville, TN, and my master's degree in special education/visual impairments from Georgia State University in Atlanta. I have served in leadership roles on a state and national level with AER and am the District 5 representative on the AER Board (until July 2006), I am also a member of a number of professional organizations, such as the Council for Exceptional Children, the International Reading Association, the National Braille Association, and the National Council of Teachers of English. I continue to serve as AFB's representative to the Braille Authority of North America, and was a delegate for the United States for the past two meetings of the general assembly of the International Council on English Braille.

I am truly honored to be part of the NCLVI fellows, and I look forward to continuing my learning at the University of Pittsburgh and with my colleagues around the country.