Anne Sullivan and Helen Keller share the most famous student-teacher relationship of all time, dramatized in countless plays and movies, but how much do you really know about this innovative teacher? Just what made him such a miracle worker?

Anne Sullivan

Sullivan's parents, Thomas and Ellis, fled their native Ireland during the Great Famine and settled near Boston, where Anne was born in 1866. Eight years later, Alice died and Thomas was afraid he could not take care of his children alone, so he sent Anne. and his younger brother, Jimmy, to live at Tewkesbury Almshouse. Hundreds of people breaking into the unclean poor house meant waves of disease, causing Jimmy to die three months after he and his sister arrived.

When Sullivan was five years old, she was diagnosed with a bacterial eye disease called trachoma, which caused severe loss of vision and little hope of education. However, he had heard of schools for blind students, so when state officials inspected Tweksbury in 1880, he dared to ask them to send him one. To his surprise, they agreed.

Perkins School

When Sullivan began attending Perkins School for the Blind, she could not even write her name, much to the dismay of some of her teachers, who were used to instructing the privileged daughters of wealthy families. However, others recognized her intelligence and determination, and with their help, Anne flourished. He also got surgery that improved his vision so much that he could see words in a book, which helped him as well. Within two years, he had caught up with everyone else in the school.

Sullivan soon befriended Laura Bridgman, an old school resident, and her first blind and deaf student. Bridgman used the manual alphabet, which he taught Sullivan, who spent endless hours reading the newspaper and discussing current events to Bridgman. His work with Bridgman really led him to the Keller family. Captain Keller had read about Bridgman and wrote to Perkins' director, Michael Anagnos, requesting a teacher to work with his blind and deaf daughter at his home in Alabama. Naturally, Anagnos recommended his most recent valedictorian, and on March 3, 1887, Sullivan began teaching Helen Keller.

Helen Keller

Sullivan spent several months at the Perkins Library focusing on reports on Bridgman's education and setting up lesson plans before traveling to Tuscumbia, Alabama. However, she soon realized that the formal lessons and strict schedule she had planned would not work for the uncontrollable and spontaneous girl. She completely revamped her approach, instead incorporating learning into Keller's playtime, and her creative thinking became the key to unlocking Keller's world.

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