Shalene Lamotte has been teaching for eight years, all of them at Burnett. After graduation from college, prior to marriage and the subsequent birth of her children, two of whom are visually impaired, Shalene had never imagined herself as a teacher. But once her own children were diagnosed, she discovered she had to become their strongest advocate for educational services, which led to friends and professional acquaintances suggesting to her that she had the heart and soul of a teacher inside her. Her son’s VI teacher encouraged her to enter Florida State University’s VI program, and once she interned at Burnett Middle School, she became a certified VI teacher. In addition, she earned a certification in Mobility Instruction, which is what she taught when she first began her career at Burnett.
Each lesson that Shalene and her co-workers, Jenice Ocasio and Angela Munoz, plan and teach must encompass as many of the overall program components as possible. These nine components, which include career skills, social skills, self-determination and self-advocacy, assisted technology, recreation and leisure, orientation and mobility, visual and sensory efficiency, and independent living skills, are strategically blended into to every teachable moment, and are in addition to the four core subjects for which the students are mainstreamed into regular classrooms. Along with designing lessons and real-world experiences for her students when they are in her classroom, Shalene is responsible for providing the resources, materials, and tools that her students need to be successful in their fused classrooms. She is emphatic that she is amazingly well supported by her administration, her VI staff, and the teachers who serve her students, as well as her Supervisor, Laura Brown. She says, “I love my job and work hard to do it well but great things never happen in isolation and they could not be more supportive of me or my students.”
Shalene’s most difficult challenge is “ensuring that my students are not marginalized.” She pushes for a level of accessibility for all students, and her administration works closely with her to be able to meet those levels, which includes working directly with the Assistant Principal for Curriculum in writing strong, practical student schedules during the summer for the coming school year. Literacy for all children is just as important to her principal, Dante Jones, and he is a big enthusiast of the annual Braille Challenge in which the Burnett VI students participate. In addition, Shalene is quick to point out that she often hears from former students who have successfully completed high school and are now either attending college, or have already graduated and are working.
In recognition of Shalene’s abilities and strong advocacy for her students, she was nominated and received a scholarship from the Florida Instructional Center for the Visually Impaired (FIMC-VI) to attend the American Printing House (PH) for the Blind’s annual meeting in Kentucky in October. APH chose her as one of five scholars in the nation to attend their meeting. Quite an honor, but well deserved of someone who teaches from the heart.View Full Album