Ten-year-old Cameron Burkett is blind, and has been since birth. It’s not a matter of what she cannot do, but what she can.
The feisty Centertown Elementary fifth-grader amazes her fellow classmates and teachers every day of her life. She reads Braille, emphasizing reading is one of her greatest passions. She also has taken ballet, tap, and piano lessons, and is currently enrolled in a gymnastics class. She loves to write stories, color, swim, ride bikes and go on hiking trips with her family Brad, Holly, Brooklyn and Chase.
Her formal education started when she was 4 years old. Special education vision teacher Beth Bradshaw has been with Cameron since she started pre-K, and is still her teacher and companion today.
Bradshaw didn’t set out to work as a vision teacher. She was hired as Cameron’s aide, and soon realized there was a need in the system for a teacher with the ability to help vision-impaired students. The mother of four decided to go back to school to earn her master’s degree in special education vision with the main purpose of helping Cameron’s journey through life. She received her master’s from Trevecca University in the first Vision Cohort for the college.
“I have definitely found my calling,” said Bradshaw. “We learned Braille together, and she is my inspiration. I never thought in a million years I would be doing this, but I thought of my children and I would want someone to help them.”
Bradshaw is the only teacher in the Warren County School System who reads Braille, and Cameron is the first blind student since 1969 to utilize the system.
“We had to start from scratch, using our fingers, practicing and building up the sensitivity in our fingertips to learn Braille,” said Bradshaw.
As Cameron has gotten older, different methods have been used to assist her. She was happy to get her first braillewriter, but the heavy original version has been replaced with a top-of-the-line model that is smaller, has more capability and more convenience for Cameron to carry with her.
The Braille Note Apex was made available by the Lions Club District, from which Bob Davenport is district governor. They saw the need and decided to raise the funds to purchase the learning aid for Cameron.
“The Warren County Lions Club helped raise the funds to purchase the learning aid for Cameron,” said Davenport. “I put the word out to our other clubs and they came through and helped us raise the money to purchase it for her. That’s just what Lions do.”
A car wash was held as a fundraiser, and through individual donations, the group was able to have the machine ready for her use when school started in the fall.
“It is wonderful for both her and me,” said Bradshaw. “To teach Cameron I’ve had to experiment and come up with creative methods of learning.”
Cameron is a happy child, saying she loves school, not math so much, but enjoys being with her friends. She is totally accepted by the student body, with them looking out for her if needed.
“Cameron has given so much to me, and she encourages me,” said Bradshaw. “She is such a strong person, and has a sense of pride and perseverance that’s unbelievable for a young girl.”
The two have formed a bond that goes beyond the teacher/student status. Bradshaw goes to each class with Cameron, and after she does her work on the braillewriter, Bradshaw translates it and sends it to the teacher electronically for evaluation. They are also in contact after school if she and her family have any problems with her homework.
Cameron describes herself as amusing, and she said this about her relationship with her teacher.
“We are like the Seven Dwarfs, but there’s only two of us, and we just keep on working.”
Cameron is on the same track for graduation as the other students, doing the same work. When asked what she will be doing in 10 years, her reply was to be in college and writing stories.