During my graduate studies at the University of Florida, I received fellowships that allowed me to conduct research without the need to be a TA. In my third year, I realized that I still wanted to experience teaching. After approaching the Chemistry Department to volunteer for a TA position, I was met with apprehension because of my blindness. However, in the end, I was accepted as the first blind chemistry TA at the University of Florida, and it became one of the best experiences of my life.
“Thank you for all the dedication and willingness to help us. I think I can speak for all that you sincerely wanted us to do well. I aspire to be as bad-*ss as you one day.”
I was eager to engage with my students and help them better understand complex concepts and problems. My blindness posed a challenge with visual presentations. In response, I developed a unique teaching style where I fostered communication between students and encouraged them to ask questions. The students often became so engaged in problems they would ask me to stay after class. I received many positive reviews from students expressing their admiration for my teaching style.
“At first, I thought being blind would compromise her teaching style. I WAS WRONG. I was actually very attentive in class, and she always motivated us to get on the chalkboard and practice.”
The core of my teaching philosophy is: materials will be accessible to students in every way possible, concepts will be explained in as many ways as necessary, and preconceived notions of students’ abilities will never be formed. One of my students, who had already failed General Chemistry once, sought my advice after failing her first quiz. I welcomed her to attend both of my sections and meet with me during office hours. By the end of the semester, she had the highest grade in the class and personally thanked me for the difference I made in her learning. I will never give up on a student who is motivated and curious, and I will never lower expectations for any student. A large part of my teaching philosophy stems from personal experiences growing up. Many of my teachers did not expect as much from me because I am blind. It took years of maturing and a few amazing teachers to realize I could expect better from myself. I want to be a teacher who encourages students to pursue their interests and motivations despite having traits that might be considered a setback in a learning environment.
“Were Mona a professor, I would go out of my way to take another class with her. I was very impressed, to say the least, as well as humbled and inspired by her courage and fortitude.”