Alaska Braille Challenge


 Braille Challenge participants

Kenai Peninsula Borough School District vision teacher Mrs. Engebretsen, and students Destiny Schmidt and Maria Maes are Braille readers. Perhaps you, like other people wonder, “What is Braille? How do you learn it? How difficult is it?”  


Junior Competition

Engebretsen, a Kenai Middle School vision teacher explains, “We use Braille as a form of written communication. Braille uses a dot system that is made up of a cell of six dots. Each character requires that certain dots be raised and others are flat. There are cells and characters for every letter of the English alphabet, punctuation marks, math symbols, chemistry symbols, and so forth. Braille allows a student to participate in math, English, language arts, and chemistry classes with his or her sighted friends.”  


 Destiny receives 3rd place in her division

On February 17, 2012, our two KPBSD Braille readers, Destiny and Maria, participated in Braille Challenge Alaska, a state competition held in Anchorage. Students from different areas of the state met at the offices of the Anchorage School District. The contestants were divided into categories according to age and Braille skills. Our students participated in tests of speed and accuracy, proofreading, comprehension and graph reading. The winners of the Braille Challenge Alaska will go to the national competition and compete with other Braille readers from several others states. 


 John Clare and Maria at lunch

Maria Maes, a sixth grade student at KMS, was awarded third place in her category. Maria enjoys being part of it and had an excellent time with other Braille readers from Anchorage. Destiny Schmidt, in eighth grade at KMS, participated for the first time. Destiny was energized to meet other students of her own age that also have visual impairments. Engebretsen, a teacher for students with visual impairment believes that “opportunities like this are so valuable for the development of our students. Students with visual impairments who are also highly academic are very unusual in our public schools. It is valuable for Destiny and Maria to interact with other students that share similar situations.”


 Maria during testing

While students were participating in the Braille Challenge, parents, grandparents, teachers and others were gathering together for informative workshops. The Alaska Parents of Blind Children organized a parent seminar, “How Do We Get There from Here? Preparing Your Blind Children For the Future.” A variety of subjects were discussed, such as Looking Good without Looking, Recreational Opportunities, Looking Forward to the Future, among others.


Maria receives 3rd place in her division

KPBSD is proud to announce that three that of the seven guest presenters at the 2012 seminar were from our school district: John Clare, Orientation & Mobility Instructor and teacher of the Visually Impaired, Jordana Engebretsen, teacher of the Visually Impaired, and Bob Ermold, a Program Manager and Special Education Administrator.


KPBSD Pupil Services 

Anchorage Daily News, “Students to compete in Alaska Braille Challenge” (link no longer available) February 13, 2012 

The Braille Institute

KPBSD Highlight story: Transformational learning for students who are visually impaired

Posted: February 24, 2012