Teacher makes visual subjects tangible to his blind students
Bryan Gueltig is a fourth-year science teacher at the Mississippi School for the Blind, and his job requires making a visual subject tangible.
A recent example involved studying the way enzymes are broken down in the body. Where sighted students could see the effects, Gueltig’s challenge was to show his visually-impaired students the effects.
His solution was to enable the students to hear the effects.
“Using hydrogen peroxide, we adjusted temperatures, added bases and acids to the enzymes and we listened for the amount of bubbles and then ranked them,” he said. “Does the enzyme like to be in an acid, in a base, does it like to be hot or cold?”
Such a creative way to help students learn is what makes his job challenging.
“This is the best position I’ve had in terms of a good fit for me,” he said. “I enjoy a lot of things about it.”
Teaching seventh- through 12th-graders in two biology courses, human anatomy, physiology and chemistry, is enjoyable for Ohio-native Gueltig due to a small class size.
Though, he said with a laugh that the smaller class size can be a drawback.
“Sometimes, we’re a little too much like family,” he said. “Students may talk to each other like they’re brother or sister.”
Administrative support is also key for Gueltig.
“The lab here is fantastic, and the administration has been great about helping me get the materials and equipment we need for class. They have been very willing to see what they can do to help,” he said.
Gueltig has learned to read Braille and is continuing that study via the Hadley School for the Blind.
“I’m learning to generate tactile diagrams for the students,” he said.
Additionally, he’s completing his certification to work with visually-impaired students through an Alternate Route Certification program at Jackson State University.
Gueltig’s hard work was awarded when he was named Teacher of the Year by the Soil and Water Conservation District of Mississippi. He shared the award with a Brandon teacher.
In 2007, Gueltig was awarded a $2,500 grant from Toyota Motors for a grant proposal he penned called “Water – What You Can’t See Might Hurt You.” The money was used to purchase water test kits and material for collecting water samples from creeks, reservoir and public water supplies to test for impurities.
“We took several field trips to area water bodies and learned about watersheds, etc.,” Gueltig said.
Gueltig’s path to the Mississippi School for the Blind was a circuitous one.
After graduation from college, he taught science at a small, private school in Ohio, but eventually left the United States to introduce a morals and ethics curriculum in public schools in the Ukraine at the request of the Ukraine government.
“The minister of education of Russia invited us,” he said. “The curriculum had been introduced in California schools, and it was totally optional.”
The education consultants taught curriculum using Jesus Christ as a model for behavior. The group also participated in community work for children, the elderly and hospitals.
“I was one of thousands from the U.S. and Canada. I was very glad to do that.”
Returning to the United States in 1997, he taught at public junior and senior high school for a few years before deciding to pursue a master’s in divinity at the Reform Theological Seminary in Jackson.
He obtained that degree in 2006, and that summer found work at the School for the Blind.
“I started teaching here that year, and I was very thankful to have work,” he said. “And I’ve been here ever since.”
He said his key to success is simply taking one day at a time.