Golden Apple: Determined to be a teacher despite being blind

10/11 Golden Apple Award is sponsored by Doane University College of Education
Published: Sep. 29, 2021 at 11:05 PM CDT
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LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) - Determination, no matter what the circumstances, can take you far...even landing you a dream job. Chase Crispin was born blind, but that didn’t stop him from getting a position as music teacher for Lincoln Public Schools.

10/11 surprised Mr. Crispin at Scott Middle School during lunch. He was modest, and worried about food in his teeth!

That’s how Crispin views life. He keeps it lighthearted and he keeps it real.

Shelly Lyon is a vocal music teacher with Crispin. She said whenever you’re around Crispin, you are laughing about something or he’s making a joke and smiling.

Crispin was born with a genetic condition where he only has light perception. He can tell if the lights are on or if it’s cloudy or the sun is out. But that’s about it. You can see where being a positive person has helped him though life.

“I had a tough situation when I was looking at colleges and deciding where I wanted to go,” Crispin said. “Someone told me, you are blind, you can’t be a music teacher, you have to pick another major. That was hard because I love what I do, and I knew this is what I wanted to do.”

The Blair native did go to college and graduated from Nebraska Wesleyan in 2019. He started at Scott as an accompanist. Now, he’s a full-time teacher.

“When his name came up, we went through the process just like anybody else,” Scott Principal Dr. Marco Pedroza said. “The names came in, we did the interviews, but ultimately he rose up to the top. He did amazing in the interview.”

Music teachers use scores of music to teach from. Well, Mr. Crispin gets his music transcribed into braille.

“Here we do full scores, and all of the parts are in braille so we send that off to a professional transcriber, so all the formatting is right,” Crispin said. “But I do have software that can scan simpler things and convert it to braille. And at home I have an embosser which is a braille printer basically.”

Crispin learns music a different way, through memorization and with braille. The trick is to teach music to kids who see.

“When I think about finding ways to show things visually, even though I don’t use the visual elements myself, I use things like these magnets (on the whiteboard),” Crispin said. “I can slide them around on the staff to make different rhythms, different pitches in a way that I can feel, but also that the students can see what the music will look like.”

6th grader, Ainsley Gouldie, nominated Crispin for the Golden Apple Award.

“I don’t think his blindness stops him,” Gouldie said. “I think it almost helps him go forward as a better teacher.”

And this first year teacher’s vision for teaching is getting noticed, for his ingenuity, his passion and his insight for helping kids grow as musicians.

“It’s really affirming that everything that I did to get to this point was worth it,” said Crispin.

And if you know of a deserving teacher like Mr. Crispin, you can nominate them for the Golden Apple Award here.

The 10/11 Golden Apple Award is sponsored by Doane University College of Education.

Doane University College of Education
Doane University College of Education(Doane University College of Education)

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