Shedding light

| 28 Sep 2011 | 02:48

    VERNON-Thanks to a special Governor Teacher Recognition grant from the Vernon Township Board of Education and the support of the LHMS School and Community Association (SCA), sixth graders at Lounsberry Hollow Middle School got the unique opportunity to meet an award winning author when Vicky Turner, library media specialist, invited Sally Alexander to the school for a two-day visit. Sally Hobart Alexander has been blind since she was 26 years old, and over the years has written several books, including her autobiography, Taking Hold: My Journey into Blindness. The book received the Christopher Medal, which honors books that achieve artistic excellence and attain the highest values of the human spirit. The Christopher Medal is inscribed: "Better to light one candle than to curse the darkness." "Extending the author's stay allowed for several small group sessions in the intimate setting of the library media center," said Turner. All sixth graders met with their language arts teachers for an hour-long presentation, as Alexander shared her story, discussed the writing process, and involved participants in interactive demonstrations with her guide dog, Handley, and various tools that help the blind. "Fifth-grade students excelling in Accelerated Reader, a popular school-wide reading incentive program, also had the opportunity to meet with Sally and Handley," Turner said. "A Writers' Workshop session was a special treat for some "AR STARS" in Pat Petruska's and Judy Schmalz's classes with time to share story ideas and receive tips from the author," she added. Alexander spoke candidly to the children abut her road to blindness, which was caused by retinal hemorrhage,s and answered their questions, making sure that they understood that it was very unlikely that something like this could happen to them. The questions ranged from "How do you cook?" to "Are all of your other senses better now that you are blind?" Alexander, who was a teacher before her blindness, says that doing school workshops is a way to keep doing what she loves. "I have to be honest and say that a good part of any author's income is made by appearances at schools and the lecture circuit," she said. "But I was a teacher before my blindness, and I had to give up something I loved because I felt that I couldn't handle the discipline. In a situation like this it's perfect because I can connect with the students and someone else is in charge of the discipline," she added. Alexander is married with two grown children and lives in Pittsburgh, Pa. She is accompanied everywhere by her seeing eye dog, Handley. "I got him four years ago from the center at Morristown, and the terrible irony is that he has cataracts," she said. "But thankfully the vet tells me that he is a good candidate for surgery." "During her short stay here at Lounsberry, Sally touched all of our lives, students and staff alike," said Turner. "She was such an inspiration, sharing her positive outlook and her genuine love for children and life itself," she added.