For 33 years, Stan Hirschberg has been helping people with visual impairments at Lighthouse International fulfill their educational goals. As the Manager of Academic Services, he teaches GED (high school equivalency) and college SAT preparation courses to people who are blind or visually impaired. Stan’s impact as a teacher and mentor has been profound, as he’s worked with over one thousand clients.
Stan, who graduated from Fordham University with a degree in learning disabilities, was hired by Lighthouse International in 1977 as a Communication Skills Instructor. “I always wanted to be a teacher,” he said. The challenge for Stan was learning how to teach visual concepts to students with a visual impairment. “What I learned was, it’s not as important as how the information gets into you, it’s what you do with it,” he said. “We adapt the methods based on their vision. It doesn’t matter what the way is, as long as it works for you and you can do it well.”
Stan credits one of his first students with helping him shape his progressive curriculum and teaching methods. “One of my first clients came to me and said, ‘Stan, you don’t know the first thing about teaching visually impaired people math,’” Stan recalls. “He happened to be right. From that point on, that’s when I began to learn.”
Former students of Stan’s, such as Liliete Lopez and Suleiman Rifai, credit him with turning their lives around. When Suleiman came to the United States, he only had a seventh grade education. With the help of Stan, Suleiman received his GED and went on to graduate from Adelphi University with a master’s degree in social work.
When Liliete Lopez moved to the United States at the age of 13, she was legally blind and could not read or write. Now, after working with Stan to receive her GED, she is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in political science and urban studies at Queens College, The City University of New York, with the goal of becoming a member of the U.S. Congress. “I think I’ve helped a lot of people,” Stan said. “I find this very rewarding. A teacher never knows where [his] influence will end. Many times the influence is not felt right away, it’s five years down the road. I’m really happy to know that.”
Even though it wasn’t always easy, Stan’s commitment to education has allowed so many others to realize their dreams. In his three-decade-long career, Stan helped transform the Academic Services department into a respected institution that has helped over one thousand people lead independent and productive lives. And through it all, Stan has kept his positive attitude. “I really look forward to it when I get a new student,” he said. “I still get enthusiastic, [like], ‘We’re gonna get somewhere with you! And we’ll get there together!’ That’s the message I try to get [across] to the students.”
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