Kenzie Haulk is a spunky little five-year-old, just ask her teacher. “She is a bundle of joy and energy all of the time,” laughed Bennett kindergarten teacher Aimee Dowger. “Her joy is contagious throughout our classroom and throughout our school.”
Known to be silly, kind, outspoken and confident, Kenzie did something very brave for a kindergartner. Standing proudly in front of a classroom of second graders she mustered up the courage to read them a book called The Mitten. Nervous at first, her giggles and energetic storytelling held the attention of the entire room.
“I love that she was younger than the kids in the classroom and got to share how excited she was about reading to my students,” said second grade teacher Julie Williamson. “I think this was a fabulous opportunity for the kids to see how other students are different than them.”
You see, Kenzie is no ordinary kindergartner, and on that day, she wasn’t just reading any ordinary book. With her hands carefully running across each page, Kenzie enthusiastically read one of her favorite books – written in braille.
Legally blind, she has Optic Nerve Hypoplasia and Nystagmus. She can vaguely see shapes of objects and some colors. Kenzie uses braille to read and a cane to help her get around.
“Bennett is a really unique place because we have a diverse group of learners here,” said Dowger. “But most importantly, every learner is incorporated in the fabric of our school. Kenzie is a great example of that.”
Some of the second grade classes are reading different biographies including the story of Helen Keller, a blind and deaf author, activist and lecturer. Kenzie was asked to speak to the class and show them how she reads, a chance for the students to see not everyone learns in the same ways.
“She was able to show them she’s a kid. She’s happy, fun and she just has to learn in a different way,” said Dowger. “For them to be able to make those connections, I think it will leave a lifelong impression.”
Despite obstacles, Kenzie is a reminder that learning can take many forms and that it’s okay to be different.
“Kenzie brings a light and joy to our classroom, and we will never be the same,” smiled Dowger.