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The Student News Site of Sunny Hills High School

The Accolade

The Student News Site of Sunny Hills High School

The Accolade

Visually impaired student teacher perseveres

Asaph Li
With a white cane in his hand, student teacher Isaac Rico gives his English 3 fifth period students instructions for taking a test in Room 57 on Monday, Feb. 27.

Blurs, floaters and light movement.

That is what English instructor Scott Enrico’s student teacher, Isaac Rico, is limited to seeing on a daily basis.

But such a disability hasn’t stopped Rico from doing what he wants and achieving his goals.

“I have a vision to sort of get around campus, but I carry the [white] cane just to [inform] everyone that I am partially blind,” he said. “So if I bump into anyone, they’ll know it is literally by accident.”

At the age of 10, Rico said he was diagnosed with neuromyelitis optica, a condition that can potentially harm people’s eyes, brain and spine to make them require the usage of a wheelchair. He is able to move around normally while sustaining a rough 80% vision in his right eye but low vision in his left. 

“I’m lucky enough that it just affected my eyes,” he said. “I have been pretty fortunate to stay stable and not lose any more vision than I already have.”

Rico, partially blind since he was 10, uses an iPad to upload academic material for the students. (Image taken by Noah Lee)

With the disease being not severe enough for it to interfere with his passion — teaching English — the student teacher practices his craft with Enrico’s fourth and fifth period English 3 students since the start of the spring semester.

Prior to coming to Sunny Hills, Rico said he discovered the beauty and usefulness of English while majoring in that same subject at Fullerton College from 2016-2019.  He then graduated from California State University, Fullerton [CSUF], after studying there from 2019-2022 and earned his bachelor’s degree in English the same year. 

To pursue his career as a high school English teacher, he remained at CSUF to immediately apply and later be accepted into their teaching credential program, leading to him eventually becoming a student teacher at Sunny Hills.  

“English class was something that I felt wasn’t really explored enough when I went to high school because the most you did with English is just read books, memorize a lot and then you were good,” said the student teacher, who graduated from Anaheim High School in 2016. “But in college, they told you that there were so many other things you could do with knowing English or being fluent and very literate.”

Having received education and support from schools, such as Clara Barton Elementary School, with programs helping blind people learn, Rico was encouraged from a young age to not let his disability get in the way of his ambitions.

With assistance from technology, Rico reads the agenda and explains to the students their task. (Image taken by Asaph Li)

“I think it is great that he is able to work through his [condition] because being a student teacher is not an easy thing to do, visually impaired or not,” principal Craig Weinreich said. “Although it is my first time to my own knowledge of working with a visually impaired student teacher or teacher, I think it is going well.”  

After observing Rico for two months, Enrico said working with his student teacher has been a pleasure.

“He can do anything a person with sight can do but with a twist of assigning everything digitally instead of paper worksheets,” Enrico said. “He has started to do some things to make his presence known in the room such as walking up and down the aisles asking if the students need help.”

Rico said he utilizes modern technology by posting assignments rather than paper, which allows him more visibility because of the zoom-in option on iPads.

While following Enrico’s guidance, the student teacher continues to work on making the class more engaging and becoming more comfortable speaking in front of students as a first-time teacher. However, some activities remain a challenge, such as supervising his students.

 “Since I can’t really watch over them, I began to build more trust with the students rather than constantly annoying them,” Rico said. “Also, I try to be ahead of the curve more than your average teacher because I obviously have to read a bit slower when trying to do large texts.”

Junior Sebastian Rojas, who had Rico since the start of the spring semester before he took over lessons in early February, said the student teacher’s visual impairment had not affected the learning environment, which Rojas said feels just like any other class.

“He has a very interactive teaching style despite his vision as he has an upfront style and finds ways to involve people by calling on us to read and encourages us to give our input,” said Rojas, who is in Enrico’s fourth period class. “Since our generation has already incorporated technology into our daily learning environment, Mr. Rico making everything digital was not so special and different from other classes.”

Junior Jacqueline Beason student said she appreciates how open her student teacher has been since they first met at the start of the semester. 

“I think Mr. Rico has learned Mr. Enrico’s methods very well as he obviously teaches in a similar way, and I currently have no problem with it,” said Beason, who is in Enrico’s fifth period English 3 class. “I like how he would just ask a question, and it’ll be an open conversation where people come out and say what they want, making more people want to participate.”

Despite the challenges his condition brings, Rico said he enjoys many recreational activities outside the classroom, such as watching movies and playing video games. 

As a student teacher, Rico has been assigned to help instruct English teacher Scott Enrico’s junior students this semester.

“Since I like to do a lot of creative writing and reading scripts and short stories, I think I found myself appreciating movies and going to watch them more,” Rico said. “I also play video games as I have enough sight to do so.”

Once Rico finishes his training with Enrico, the student teacher said he hopes to become a high school instructor at Sunny Hills if offered, but if not, he plans to teach in the Los Angeles area where he can be close to his partner and later earn a master’s degree in the future.

As one of the newest people on campus, Rico strives to work on his weaknesses as a teacher in hopes of providing the same inspiring high school and college experience he felt.

“I would respect and aspire to be like my high school teachers and college professors because they were really nice and supportive,” he said. “I am currently focusing on how to improve myself because I aim to pass down what I learned from my mentors to high schoolers.”

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Aiden Park, Opinion Editor
Having been the arts & entertainment editor last year, senior Aiden Park is excited to continue his journey in The Accolade as he returns as the co-opinion editor. He hopes to make great memories and contributions to the staff. Outside of The Accolade, Park works part-time and runs in the cross country and track and field team.
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