FSDB Ms. Beckham working with a student at her desk
November Teacher Spotlight – Kristen Beckham

Kristen Beckham is a reading teacher in the Blind Elementary-Middle School at FSDB.  On any given day, she assists student readers using laptops with magnification, screen readers such as Jaws, BrailleNotes, and thick white braille books.  Students might be working at tables or on the couch, moving around or sitting down, working independently, or helping each other.  These activities all flow together and students respect each other.  Beckham excels at creating a warm ambience with lots of student choice opportunities. Her classroom is structured around simple rules with clear consequences. Students love her and visit for years after they have ceased being her students.

Q: What was your pathway to becoming a reading teacher at FSDB?

I had been teaching in the public sector for eight years. I was feeling like I needed to be learning more and helping more. When I saw the job posting for a reading teacher in the Blind Department at FSDB and I felt that was where I needed to be. Through happenstance, I ran into a friend whom I hadn’t seen for a number of years. We were talking about our teaching careers and she told me that she worked in the Blind Elementary School at FSDB, where I had just applied. I have been in this position for almost 9 years. Becoming a teacher of the visually impaired is one of the best decisions I have made.

Q: What are the curricular projects in your classroom at this time?

We are doing a book study in each class. Sixth graders are reading No More Dead Dogs by Gordon Korman. Seventh graders are reading Among the Hidden by Margaret Haddix. Eighth graders are reading The Devil’s Arithmetic by Jane Yolen. During book study, students discuss characters, themes of the text, and any questions that came up while reading. Class discussions become colorful and interesting, and students often make text-to-self connections.  Students answer comprehension questions based on the text and provide supporting evidence for their answers, and learn new vocabulary.

Q: What are your passions within the broad topic of Language Arts?

I was fortunate that reading came pretty easy to me in school. One of my earliest reading memories was teaching myself to read Go Dog Go! I loved Aesop’s Fables and would picture everything in my head. As I moved along in school, I developed a love for literature, poetry, and creative writing. I just love the way that reading and writing evoke strong emotions and images.

Q: You are known for creating a warm and engaging classroom environment; what’s your secret?

I show my students that I am human and imperfect and different. I make mistakes sometimes and don’t know all of the answers. I have a sense of humor, so we laugh a lot. One year {not at FSDB} I accidentally set off the fire alarm on the first day of school by burning microwave popcorn. The whole school had to evacuate. I used it as a teachable moment, telling students that I also make embarrassing mistakes.

By Christi Boortz, Instructional Services

About FSDB
The Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind (FSDB) is a fully accredited state public school and outreach center available tuition-free to eligible Pre-K and K-12 deaf/hard of hearing and blind/visually impaired students. Comprehensive educational services at FSDB are individualized, specific to the unique communication and accessibility needs of each student for independence and lifelong success. FSDB gratefully accepts private donations to support vital programs that directly benefit students and are not paid by state general revenue funds. To visit the school or to learn more about eligibility for enrollment, contact 1-800-344-3732. For more information, visit