USC Upstate News

USC Upstate’s Special Education--Visual Impairment Program Awarded A $746,956 Grant

09- 05- 2008

Spartanburg, S.C. - The Special Education--Visual Impairment Program in the School of Education at the University of South Carolina Upstate recently received a $746,956 grant from the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services from the United States Department of Education to significantly increase the number of highly-qualified, certified teachers of students with visual impairments throughout South Carolina. The situation in South Carolina is especially critical as an estimated 50 percent of certified teachers of students with visual impairments are expected to retire within the next three to five years.

The grant will be administered over a four-year period, and the majority of the grant funding will be devoted to financially support teachers who are completing master’s degree in Visual Impairment.  The grant will also provide new Braille writers, updated assistive technology, statewide professional development opportunities and mentoring for new teachers of students with visual impairments.

USC Upstate has the only Visual Impairment Training Program in South Carolina. The Visual Impairment Program is accredited by the National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE), and its content is shaped and aligned with the School of Education core values and disposition and the standards set by the Council for Exceptional Children. The South Carolina Department of Education requirements for endorsement in visual impairment have also been embedded into the program. Candidates in the program are typically full-time teachers from across the state. Thus, the two-year program offers live classes at the South Carolina School for the Blind and Visually Impaired in the summer and distance learning classes in the fall and spring.

One of the truly unique aspects of the USC Upstate Visual Impairment Program is the collaboration with the South Carolina Vision Education Partnership to maximize program effectiveness. The partnership consists of the South Carolina School for the Deaf and the Blind, South Carolina State Department of Education, University of South Carolina Upstate, South Carolina Commission for the Blind, National Federation of the Blind of South Carolina, South Carolina Association of Education & Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired, South Carolina State University, and Medical University of South Carolina Storm Eye Institute. Members of this authentic partnership share ideas, information, and resources.

 “This grant will enable members of the South Carolina Vision Education Partnership to increase meaningful, high quality, and research-based professional development opportunities and to establish a statewide mentoring program, a much-needed initiative to assist with teacher retention,” said Jim Rex, State Superintendent of Education.

Dr. Charles Love, dean of the School of Education at USC Upstate, believes the grant will assist teachers across the state who are seeking a master’s degree and becoming endorsed in visual impairment.

“The awarding of this grant will significantly impact in a positive way our ability to increase both the quantity and quality of teachers of students who are visually impaired in South Carolina Schools,” said Love. “We are so appreciative of the hard work and expertise of Dr. Tina Herzberg for her role in making this award possible.”

Tina HerzbergHerzberg, assistant professor and current director of the Special Education-Visual Impairment Program, has been named project coordinator. Herzberg previously taught for Brownfield Independent School District and Belton Independent School District, as well as worked as an educational consultant for Education Service Center Region 12 in Waco, Texas.  She has a bachelor’s degree in secondary education/math from Angelo State University and a master’s degree in visual impairment from Texas Tech University. She also has her Ph.D. in special education and interagency collaboration from Texas A&M University.