Student, Future TSVI, Hidden Hero
There are many hidden heroes at North Dakota Vision Services/School for the Blind. The hard work of maintenance staff and administrative assistants often go unnoticed. The person who produces braille and large print materials is often taken for granted. And houseparents – who are frequently declared “favorites” by students and clients – also fall into this category.
What is a houseparent? Houseparents are the hidden heroes who swoop in after the teachers and instructors go home for the day and work with the students and clients in the evenings and overnights during short-term program weeks. In houseparent Amy Follette’s own words, a houseparent is “someone who helps with homework, outings, making or assisting with dinner, and being the student’s and client’s friend.” That last part – simply being a friend – is what endears many of the students and clients to the houseparents, and to the rest of the staff.
For 4 years, Amy Follette has been a friend to dozens of students and adult clients who have come to the School for short-term programs. You could say it’s in her blood. Her mother is a TSVI in Minnesota and encouraged her to apply for a houseparent position when she started attending UND. “Honestly, I really needed a job,” Amy said, “but I stayed because I fell in love with the School, the staff, their mission, and most of all the students and clients.” This spring will be Amy’s last with NDVS/SB, but before she moves on, we asked her to share what she’s learned from her time here. Keep reading because she’s got some trivia to share!
Tell us about yourself.
My name is Amy Follette, third child out of three. I’m from Crookston, MN, and attending the University of North Dakota pursuing elementary education with minors in elementary math and middle level education. I am also planning to attend graduate school to become a Teacher of Students with Visual Impairments (TSVI) and hopefully add orientation and mobility specialist to my list of degrees as well.
What have you learned from working here?
What haven’t I learned from this school?! One of the main things that I have learned is that these students and clients are so capable, and with the right tools they are unstoppable! I have noticed all the visual cues that sighted people use every day. I have loved learning new ways to instruct how to cook safely. And I have noticed all of the accommodations in our community for people who are blind or visually impaired.
What has been your favorite part of working at NDVS/SB?
The people: the students, clients, and staff. I can say that I have never met better people to be around.
What is your favorite thing to do with the students or adults you have worked with?
This is a hard question. I love to go swimming with the students, helping/showing students how to safely cook, and helping our students and clients step out of their comfort zone.
What would you say to people who are considering becoming a houseparent?
DO IT! DO IT! DO IT!
My advice, treat the students and clients like the people they are. I can’t count how many times I have talked to and helped a student or client and had a head cocked at me. Our students and clients have a visual disability – it doesn’t mean they are unable to better themselves and help themselves.
Is there anything you think people would be surprised to learn about NDVS/SB?
I have a few fun facts.
1. If you walk down the halls at the School and feel the walls, there are little wooden notches below signs so students/clients can feel their way up the wall and know where they are.
2. The tiles on the carpeted floor are placed to help orient anyone who is walking with a cane. They can count the tiles to know when to turn or know when they have reached their destination.
3. The Commons space used to be a swimming pool.
This is your last year working as a houseparent at NDVS/SB. What are your future plans?
My future plans are to take a year off from school and work my butt off at the Blue Moose in order to afford graduate school to become a TSVI.
Anything else you want to share?
Having the opportunity to work at the School has made me a better person. I have learned so much from the staff, students, and clients. This School really is a magical place!