History of the ELP

black and white photo of 8 ELP students

The history of Perkins School for the Blind's Educational Leadership Program (ELP) dates back to the launch of the Teacher Training Program in 1920.

The Teacher Training Program was the first formal training initiative in the United States for teachers of the blind. A partnership between Perkins and Harvard University, the program combined rigorous study at Harvard with experiential learning inside Perkins classrooms. Participants lived on Perkins’ campus, working closely with students and staff.

The first class to include international teacher trainees, from Japan and the Netherlands, arrived at Perkins in 1921. Over the next seven decades, the program expanded to include trainees from all over the United States and all over the globe. Many graduates went on to rise through the ranks in their home countries to become prominent special educators.

Several major changes in the latter half of the 20th century reshaped the Teacher Training Program into its modern incarnation. In 1953, Perkins transferred the program from Harvard to Boston University, and in 1966 to Boston College. That partnership continues today.

Then, in 1989, the program shifted its focus solely to international teacher training. With this change came a new name – the Educational Leadership Program.

Today, the ELP serves as Perkins International’s flagship training program and continues Perkins’ storied legacy of empowering educators of the blind from around the world.

The first all-international ELP class received their diplomas in the spring of 1990. Since then, more than 250 educators from 70 countries have graduated from the ELP.

Together with the estimated 1,300 Teacher Training Program graduates that came before them, this influential network of professionals has used the skills they acquired at Perkins to help transform the lives of children with visual impairment across the globe.