As students and teachers are heading back to school, there are back-to-school sales everywhere, and it seems like so many people are talking about the wonderful job that teachers do. It makes me think of one particularly amazing teacher.

Not to take away from the legacy of Helen Keller but Anne Sullivan, in my opinion, is truly impressive. Helen Keller did overcome some incredible obstacles, but could she have done any of it without her teacher, Anne Sullivan?

Anne Sullivan & Helen Keller
Anne Sullivan & Helen Keller

Anne Sullivan was born into poverty, and went nearly blind from a bacterial eye infection when she was only eight years old. As if that wasn’t enough, her mother died, and then her father abandoned the children two years later. She and her brother went to an almshouse, where her brother died a few months later. The future was grim, since Ms. Sullivan had no marketable skills due to her blindness.

Luck ended up being on her side, however. Ms. Sullivan found out about, and was able to talk her way into, a school for the blind. It was difficult for her, but she continued to work hard. She had two more fateful incidents. First, she met a blind and deaf person who had graduated from her school. They became friends, and she learned the manual alphabet from her. The other break she had was getting eye operations that improved her vision. Still, not an easy life from any perspective!

After she graduated, she was recommended to Helen Keller’s parents. It was reported that Anne had to adapt her teachings to suit Helen. Helen was a very willing and hard-working student, and Anne was an amazing teacher.

By all accounts, it seems that Anne Sullivan and Helen Keller made a very good match. They worked together very well, and accomplished more than I imagine anyone had expected. Their accomplishments brought exposure to the school, which resulted in increased funding for the school. Both Anne and Helen were awarded honorary fellowships and degrees, and they were recognized by their school, the Perkins School.

Eventually, Helen even went to college. She graduated cum laude from Radcliffe in 1904. She was able to accomplish this feat in no small part because of the assistance of Ms. Sullivan, who faithfully spelled the words of the textbooks and lectures into her hand.

The lives of the two women were quite intertwined. In fact, I heard that Helen held Anne’s hand as Anne died.

I was very interested lately to see some videos of these two remarkable women that I would love to share:

How Helen Keller learned to talk.

Listen to Helen Keller actually speak.

I find it amazing that two women, from such rough beginnings, could achieve so much. It astounds me that Helen Keller became part of a vaudeville act, a public speaker and author, a fundraiser, and an advocate for racial and sexual equality. She also helped to change public opinion about those with disabilities. Anne Sullivan was a vital part of her accomplishments.

Many thanks to all the other wonderful teachers out there;

Tags : Anne SullivanHelen KellerHuman Spirit
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