by HANNAH NEFF/Staff Writer
| December 8, 2021 1:00 AM
Smiles, carols and cards filled the room as a group of happy givers prepared to bless the community.
Six visually impaired students, guided by volunteers, spent their Saturday crafting Christmas cards, putting together goodie bags and practicing Christmas carols at North Idaho College, preparing for their show that afternoon at Evans Brothers Coffee Roasters in Coeur d’Alene.
“I feel like we all had a lot of fun,” said student Jessalyn Wright, 14. “I know I definitely had fun making the cards and the packages, and practicing the songs.”
Six-year-old Aubriella Gibson said she was a little scared singing in front of everyone at first but had fun. She said her favorite part was giving the gifts after the performance.
The event was put together by Jordana Engebretsen, a teacher for the visually impaired.
“The main thing is for them to understand that they are not alone,” Engebretsen said.
She also says she wants the students to have the opportunity to give so they can understand it’s more of a blessing to share with others.
“I know in my own life, if I give I get more reward than receiving,” Engebretsen said. “That’s what I want the kids to feel.”
Engebretsen has been blind for more than 20 years, and contracts her teaching services through TechVision.
Every few months, she hosts the students for a “My Environment” activity. It’s a chance for them to socialize and enjoy doing things on their own.
“It’s really important that they know other people that are like them and that they enjoy things in a different way, but they can enjoy it together,” said Tina Johnson, a volunteer and teacher for the visually impaired.
Johnson said she got a lot of joy out of watching the kids do activities on their own that other people will unintentionally help them with because they think the kids need assistance when they don’t.
Carla Carnegie, of Willow Song Music Therapy in Otis Orchards, Wash., came out to help the students perform at the coffee shop. Carnegie worked with student Alex Owens, 13, since he was 7.
The crowd, including Rhonda McCann of Post Falls, cheered as the kids sang their Christmas carols, including solo performances.
“It was amazing,” McCann said. “I just think they’re amazing kids.”
Note From NFBI President Dana Ard
Jordana Engebretsen Was presented with the National Teacher of Blind Children award at the NFB national convention in July. She has high expectations for the blind children that she teaches, and expects them to do things that others feel are impossible.
This article describes a Christmas activity that took place last Saturday in Coeur d’ Alene and was published in the Coeur d’Alene Press. Jordana is a member of the NFB Treasure Valley Chapter.
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