Missouri State University
Tiffany Huggins

Tiffany Huggins

  • MSEd, special education (BLV empasis), 2017

Online path makes career change possible

Tiffany Huggins is a teacher of the visually impaired (TVI).

She works at a school for the blind, and now holds a teaching certification in three states including Missouri. Her job is to provide students and adults with life-changing, self-sufficient academic and social skills.

Although she earned a bachelor's in business management (and ended up working as a social worker) Tiffany wanted to become a teacher. In 2014, at the age of 24, Tiffany took a leap and pursued a career change by enrolling in Missouri State's 100% online blindness and low vision program.

“I appreciated the university’s understanding that many adults worked full-time jobs and some even had other obligations, and for this reason, the university was very flexible in their approach. With this understanding in mind, I was grateful and felt liberated knowing that I did not have to be in front of a computer at a certain time of day or day of the week.”

Earning her degree online

For Tiffany, clear program expectations and proactive communications from faculty smoothed the path for success.

Thanks to Missouri State holding extensive observations and instruction to the very end of the program, I did not have to consider the risk of losing my job as a social worker due to requesting summers off.”

“The expectations and deadlines were provided in the electronic syllabus before class started, so this provided each student with ample amount of time to mark their calendars and do whatever they felt was necessary in order to ensure that their submissions were in on time.”

MSU’s blindness and low vision program appealed to Tiffany because the program was clearly designed to be completed 100% online.

“I primarily needed a program that did not require consecutive summers of direct (face-to-face) instruction or observations.

Showcasing her skills

Despite the program being 100% online, she still had plenty of hands-on experience. One learning opportunity that really stands out to her was a video lesson she had to make for a class assignment.

“I had to record different lessons of me teaching someone, under the blindfold, different skills such as labeling medication bottles, dispersing their medications in a weekly medicine container, preparing food, and orienting themselves around an unfamiliar room, just to name a few.

“Completing these activities were not only exciting to facilitate, but they also provided me with the opportunity to try these activities out for myself in an effort to put myself in the shoes of a visually impaired learner.”

'I love what I do!'

Tiffany earned her certification to teach students with visual impairments and blindness from MSU in July of 2017, and in December of that same year, she earned her master's degree.

Her current employer had been communicating with her about a job as a TVI since 2014.

However, she had to complete the steps to become a certified teacher. The program's appeal and flexibility provided Tiffany with the means to earn both her certification and master's 100% online.

When asked how she enjoys the field she replied, "I love what I do! I honestly cannot see myself doing anything else."

Another factor that makes becoming a teacher of the visually impaired appealing is the job security — there is a national shortage of blind and low vision educators.

As existing educators advance towards retirement, more gaps will need to be filled by at-a-distance programs like Missouri State’s, filled with successful students like Tiffany.