Tuesday, February 9, 2021

By: Claire Quigle

Stephanie Howsare is following in the footsteps of her aunt Shelly Howsare, who works as a teacher of students with visual impairments.

Both Stephanie and Shelly are passionate about making a difference in the lives of those who are blind and visually impaired.

Stephanie’s cousin and Shelly’s nephew, Jalen Howsare, lost his sight to retinoblastoma at 18 months old.

“Growing up we did a lot together and for the most part, he was able to do everything I was,” Stephanie says. “Watching him get older and accomplish everything he wanted inspired me to be an advocate for others with visual impairments to pursue their dreams.”

Shelly says when Jalen lost his sight, her family thought he would need to attend a special school for the blind. However, they learned that he could attend public school and would be provided with several services, including a teacher of students with visual impairments and an orientation and mobility specialist.

Shelly says when she got acquainted with these educational service providers and saw how they had an immediate positive impact on her nephew’s life, she decided to become a teacher so she could have the same impact on other visually impaired students.

Shelly graduated from the University of Iowa College of Education with a BA in Elementary Education in 2003. She currently works for Iowa Educational Services for the Blind and Visually Impaired as a teacher of students with visual impairments (TVI). After graduating from UI, Shelly received a master’s degree from the University of Northern Colorado in Special Education with an emphasis on severe needs: vision. As a TVI, she serves a diverse group of students from birth to 21.

Shelly is proud that Stephanie also wants to work with visually impaired students. Stephanie graduated in December 2020 from the UI College of Education with a bachelor of arts in elementary education.

Right now, Stephanie is substitute teaching at several schools in the Iowa City area. She is a full-time graduate student working toward a master’s in special education with an emphasis on severe needs: vision.

“She is a compassionate and generous person,” Shelly says. “She is always looking for ways to understand other people's positions and struggles.”

Stephanie didn’t always want to be a teacher. She says she struggled to find something about which she was passionate. After shadowing her aunt and seeing the relationship she had with her students, Stephanie knew what she wanted to do.

“Watching the way she (Shelly) was able to work with the students one-on-one was something I instantly loved,” Stephanie says. “I could see the difference she made with each student after just one session. This was a different side of teaching than I had originally seen. I never pictured myself teaching whole classrooms full of students.”

Stephanie felt inspired after watching the passion Shelly had in making a difference in her student’s lives.

Both Shelly and Stephanie were raised in Iowa City and always wanted to go to the University of Iowa.

“When looking into teacher preparation programs, I really liked the program that Iowa has,” Stepanie says. “They really emphasize and encourage technology in the classroom and give the opportunities to practice with and learn each piece of technology. “

As a teacher of those who are visually impaired, Shelly likes the long-term relationships she gets to build with her students.

“I have the opportunity to see them become curious, confident, and independent,” Shelly says. “Typically we stay with students throughout their education unless they move out of our service area. This gives us the opportunity to build deeper relationships.”

Like Shelly, Stephanie feels that the relationships she builds with her students and getting to watch them grow are the best parts of teaching.

“I cannot say I have ever had a boring day while teaching,” Stephanie says. “Making connections and building relationships with students is amazing. Watching the growth of a student during your time together and just having a conversation with them can change your perspective. They end up teaching me as much as I teach them.”

After finishing graduate school, Stephanie will work as a TVI, just like her aunt.

“I am so proud of Stephanie,” Shelly says. “She will be an exceptional teacher who positively impacts the lives of her students and her colleagues.”