Brenda Krueger met Jaylee King when she was 8 years old. Although the two spend a few hours together every day now, their first interaction was evidence of the work ahead of them. Jaylee, who was born with DiGeorge Syndrome, is totally blind, nonverbal, and extremely tiny. Consequently, Jaylee has had to overcome overwhelming obstacles caused by DiGeorge Syndrome that most people simply never have to face.
This is where Krueger comes in. As a teacher for visually impaired students with nearly 20 years of experience, Krueger works for the High Desert Education Service District (HDESD) alongside other professionals in order to improve student outcomes regardless of disadvantages and disabilities. As a result, she travels to schools in the Jefferson County, Redmond, and Bend-La Pine School Districts serving students from the ages of birth through 22 years.
This progress has occurred largely due to Krueger’s ability to see potential in all kids, regardless of what others may say of them. By allowing her students to own their personal learning process, Krueger is able to pioneer, experiment and listen in order to create an environment where her success as a teacher produces and encourages the success of others. For example, Krueger quickly observed that Jaylee loved music and thus began incorporating songs and playlists as a form of reward for hard work. She also integrates tactual tools such as velcro, straws and magnets into every learning exercise so that Jaylee is able to communicate using materials that correlate to people, objects and ideas.
However, one of Krueger’s most effective strategy may be her ability to write tactual original rhymes and books about Jaylee’s favorite subjects, such as pickles, in order to develop interest and a desire to learn. In Kruegers own words, “She loves reading pickle stories and then at the end we eat real pickles and cut real pickles up.
When Jaylee turned ten, they celebrated with different types of cake and a handmade “book of tens.” Additionally, Krueger recently observed Jaylee’s swim practice in order to write her another story about an activity that she loves. With a smile in her voice, she states that, “I enjoy creating stuff, and sometimes it flops. I just try to make it real for her.”
In the future, Krueger and the other teachers, therapists and school staff working with Jaylee hope to conquer braille and increase communications. Krueger also notes that she’d like to get a better grasp on what Jaylee does and does not understand when it comes to reading in braille and imitating words. In the end, Jaylee is similar to other kids who have had to overcome overwhelming challenges. She loves music, snacks, and learning in an environment where the experiences are real and interesting. Her progress over the past 24 months has been astounding and future development is equally exciting and made possible by the HDESD and people like Krueger who are intent on engaging students to succeed.
Written by McKenna Boen
Photos Courtesy of Brenda Krueger