Teacher Overcomes Obstacles

DUBUQUE – Natalie Schira is a devoted teacher at Wahlert Catholic High School. Like most English teachers, she’s had a lifelong love of literature.

“I have always been a reader,” she said. “My mom had told me ever since I was little, I would recite Dr. Seuss’ ABC book… since then I loved reading”

Unlike most English teachers, Natalie is legally blind.

Legally Blind
She was born with a condition called Turner’s syndrome, which causes one of the two X-chromosomes in females to either be missing or inverted in some way. One of the symptoms of Turner’s syndrome is glaucoma. “If you were to look through my eyes, you would find things really, really, really blurry,” explained Natalie.

“Don’t You EVER Talk to Me Like That Again”
An only child, Natalie grew up with a very supportive family who encouraged her to chase her dreams – no matter what those dreams were. During her thirteenth birthday celebration at The Mall of America, her friends wanted to surprise her and take her on a roller coaster. Natalie was scared and tried using her vision impairment as an excuse, but her mom wouldn’t allow it.

“I never made a comment like this before or since, but in my bratty 13-year-old state I said to my mom, ‘You better tell me what’s going to happen at the top of those hills because I am at a slight disadvantage here! My mom stayed totally cool and said, ‘Don’t you EVER talk to me like that again! I don’t need to tell you anything.’ And of course she did when I calmed down, but it was truly one of the greatest gifts she ever gave me,” Natalie remembered.

Using Technology to Read
Since then, she has not let her conditions define her. She successfully landed her dream job, using technology to help her with everyday teaching tasks like reviewing emails and grading papers. “What I have done is turn on a feature that comes built-in [on my iPhone] called VoiceOver,” Natalie explained. “Let’s say I want to read an email. I open my email and scroll with my finger…” and the device reads the email aloud.

Outside of the Classroom
When she’s not working, Natalie is just like any other 24-year-old. She manages to find time to exercise nearly every day, enjoys baking for family and friends and even writes gospel music – all while keeping a positive attitude. “There isn’t anything in the universe, anything in the universe that I can’t do. We just sometimes adapt the approach to doing things.”

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