Laura Kier: A Sharp and Witty Friend and Sister and a Pioneer in Advancements to Teaching the Blind.
The Inn at Belden Village would like to introduce you to our May Senior Spotlight Laura Kier. In talking with Laura, she claims to have lived an ordinary life but the stories that unfold when you speak with her are far from that.
Laura’s Local Roots and Upbringing
Laura was born in Canton, Ohio on January 10, 1928 and is now 87 years old. She and her three siblings grew up just a block away from Aultman Hospital which was amazingly only one building at the time. Laura was the second youngest of the four children and also had three half-siblings she was close with.
She attended Lincoln High School and went on to attend college at Muskingham University where she earned a degree in Education. She was in high school during the war. “Food was rationed. Students were to bring their own lunches or go home to eat lunch.” Laura recalls.
She was quite the well-rounded student as she sang in the acapella choir, was one the original members of her high school’s National Honors’ Society as well as maintained a job at Sears, Roebuck & Co. that she had found out about at school. Laura also worked in downtown Canton at Kobacker’s in the lunch room for a time.
Laura recollects, “Downtown Canton is very different now from what it used to be. There were a lot of little shops and stores, and the Palace Theatre was very active. There was even an eatery called The Purple Cow which was very popular at the time.”
Laura’s Path to Teaching the Blind
After her schooling was complete, one of Laura’s college professors recommended that she teach at a school for the blind, so that’s what she ended up doing in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. It’s hard to believe now, but at the time all blind children from Ohio had to attend one school: The Ohio State School for the Blind in Columbus, Ohio.
Wanting to make a change in how blind students were treated and educated, Laura was sought-after by a woman who was in charge of Special Education for the state of Ohio. While Laura was resistant at first, she finally won Laura over by asking her what she thought would be better for blind children: to attend The Ohio State School for the Blind and only come home for the holidays, or to be able to live at home and attend public school with a program for the blind. Laura responded by saying, “Every child needs a home and their parents near them if possible”.
With that, Laura started the first class of its kind for blind children at Forest Elementary in Parma, Ohio. She was one of the first to implement braille in public schools. She had to use the same material and books the seeing children used. Only some of the textbooks were available in braille from the printing house, which meant Laura had to get all of the proper permissions and transpose all of the other material to braille.
With the help of the children, she built a great foundation of teaching materials for the blind. She even taught the students to type around 3rd or 4th grade. Laura’s father used to tell her, “Laura, you have a good mind. Use it”. She used her father’s advice to do a lot of good.
Using her Gifts to Train and Educate other Educators
Laura also worked as an educational consultant for Houghton Mifflin Publishing Company. She traveled through Ohio to work with the Mathematics, English, and Reading departments at different schools who used Houghton Mifflin textbooks.
Following her time at Houghton Mifflin, Laura took a job in Boston as editor of the Mathematics textbooks. As a consultant she worked with teachers on the philosophy of teaching and guided them toward the understanding that each student is unique and learns in their own unique way.
Laura’s Stay at The Inn at Belden Village Assisted Living Residence
As time went on over the years, Laura is the only one still living out of all of her siblings, to which she said, “that seems a little strange”.
But when we asked how Laura gets along at The Inn at Belden Village she says “Well, I’m very content. They (all of the staff) have been very good to me. Of course, I’ve been here longer than most people. They get to know you and your tastes and what you’re like. They take good care of me. They take care of all my medication so I don’t have to remember it all”.
We are fortunate enough to have her at our facility. Not only has Laura Kier made an impact on many schools and their students, but she has made an impact on us too! We have enjoyed having Laura here with us at The Inn at Belden Village for the last 8 years and we hope to have her for many more.