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Guillory presented national educator of blind award

Friday, July 14, 2023
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Courtesy Photo
Krystal Guillory (left) accepts the award for National Federation of the Blind 2023 Distinguished Educator of Blind Students as Carla McQuillian, Chairperson of the Awards Committee and President of NFB of Oregon, joins her.

When Krystal Guillory headed to Houston for the National Federation of the Blind conference, she had one thing on her mind — ace her presentation. So, when her name was called as the recipient of the annual Distinguished Educator of Blind Students Award, she was caught completely off guard.

“I was in shock to say the least,” Guillory said. “Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would win a national award for teaching. I pour into my students daily, but I think as teachers we are always thinking what’s next, and there’s so much more to do.”

A teacher of blind students for over 20 years, Guillory credits her involvement in the National Federation of the Blind with dramatically increasing her effectiveness in inspiring and motivating her students. She also serves as coordinator for NFB BELL academies in the state of Louisiana and is a board member of the Louisiana division of the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children.

“Krystal Guillory has an outstanding track record of raising expectations for blind students and their families in Louisiana, both those whom she instructs directly and others throughout the state,” said Mark Riccobono, President of the National Federation of the Blind. “She is an advocate for Braille literacy, early cane travel, and other critical blindness skills. She was instrumental in helping to create NFB BELL Academy In-Home Edition to serve blind students across the nation during the pandemic, and she enhances that program and other Braille literacy efforts across Louisiana and the United States. These qualities make her an outstanding recipient of our Distinguished Educator of Blind Students award.”

The Distinguished Educator of Blind Students award carries with it a $1,000 cash prize and an opportunity to address hundreds of parents of blind students and network with other blind individuals and teachers of blind students.

Pam Allen, Executive Director for the Louisiana Center for the Blind, said the recognition was well deserved.

“Krystal serves as the treasurer for the NFB of Louisiana, is a loving and devoted wife, mother, and leader in church,” Allen said. “She always goes the extra mile and has incredibly high expectations. Because of her creativity, commitment, leadership and dedicated service, the lives of blind children and their families have been truly transformed.”

In addition to Allen’s submission, Guillory was nominated by several individuals including parents of students she has served, students, and colleagues. Because she wasn’t involved in the nomination process, the honor came as a complete surprise.

“My colleagues and husband were all in cahoots on the nomination and I did not know about it until I was at the conference and prepared to speak about a braille book fair that I help to coordinate,” Guillory said. “I think that I am the first teacher that they have ever surprised as normally the recipients prepare a speech.”

Guillory also gives credit where credit is due. Noting the support of her husband Eric and the encouragement of Ruby Ryles, who championed the push for braille for students regardless of their functional vision, she also offers gratitude for the immense support at the local level.

Sharing that Lincoln Parish benefits from supportive administrators, colleagues and paraeducators that believe in blind children, she sees the award as a recognition for a superb team.

“Pam Allen has been a huge support for me, my students, and families throughout our state,” Guillory added. “She has never told me no about any need when it comes to our students. She has helped us secure teaching materials and equipment, supported families to come to conventions, provided a means for us to have weekend events, and other things. And while I am so blessed to have received the Distinguished Educator of Blind Students award, I have only been successful because I work with phenomenal teams filled with hardworking teachers and blind mentors.”

In reflecting on how the award might impact her ongoing commitment and work, Guillory is notably moved.

“ As teachers, there usually aren’t many accolades received. We receive intangible gifts — a student reading for the first time, a student graduating with honors — but this tangible plaque is something I can have in my classroom reminding me even in the long, hard days that I am making a difference and touching lives. This award has rejuvenated and inspired me to dream bigger for my students and the future.”