In 2011, Christine Rodriguez visited Perkins School for the Blind and wrote in the guest house visitor’s book: “I really pray that I will be back to realize my goal for my school, to become a leader in low-vision care and caring for the visually impaired.”
At the time, Rodriguez, the dean of the College of Optometry at Manila Central University, was in the U.S. to attend a program at UC Berkeley and the New England College of Optometry. She made a stop at Perkins at the urging of colleagues and fell in love.
Currently one of 15 participants in Perkins’ Educational Leadership Program, the memory makes Rodriguez a little teary – and intensely grateful.
“I prayed, I have to be back,” she said. “This environment is so enriching. I know there are people who will help me improve my craft, so I can help others.”
Now, her dream has come true and she intends to learn as much as she can in the six months she’ll spend on the school’s Watertown, Massachusetts, campus.
“I’m dreaming someday in my own way, I’ll share (with colleagues in the Philippines) even a part of what I saw, what I’ll learn,” she said.
It was difficult for Rodriguez to gain permission from her school to attend the lengthy program at Perkins. She’s a new dean, supervising undergraduate education, faculty, clinics and community outreach. She also teaches.
“It took all my guts to face my school officials,” she said, laughing.
Her passion for low-vision education was sparked when she was assigned to teach a class in low vision as a new faculty member. She knew she lacked the needed expertise and connected with Resources for the Blind, Inc., which is supported by Perkins. She volunteered at RBI and over time became an expert and a trainer.
“Of all the subjects in optometry, low vision is closest to my heart,” she said.
Rodriguez has a Master of Science in Optometry and a Master of Arts in Education from Manila Central University. She is currently pursuing her doctorate.
At Perkins, she wants to sharpen her clinical assessment skills and explore how, as an optometrist, she can recommend the best functional assessment and interventions for students to succeed in school or transition to work.
“I want to work, not just clinically, but to be able to contribute to the enrichment of the residual vision,” she said. “Children can do so much more with their remaining vision. I want to find ways to bring the best potential out of the child. And then, their lives will change.”