New York City resident and Tennessee native recognized for exceptional work as a Teacher for the Visually Impaired

Jonathan supports fifth grade student reading from a braille display during a class presentation

Jonathan supports Lyla, a fifth grader, as she reads from a braille display during a presentation to a class.

Braille Institute has selected Jonathan Hooper as their winner of the 2020 Teacher of the Year for Excellence in Braille Instruction Award. Hooper has worked in education for more than 10 years with most of his experience teaching students who are visually impaired.

Each year, Braille Institute recognizes Teachers of Students with Visual Impairment (TVIs) for their hard work, dedication, and innovation. The organization’s Braille Challenge National Advisory Committee, which is made up of leaders in the field, names a Teacher of the Year who stands out for their contributions. The award is an opportunity for all TVIs to be celebrated on a national level for the work they do with blind or visually impaired students. Any TVI in the United States or Canada is eligible and can be nominated by peers, students, or others.

Hooper was selected because of the life-changing work he has done with children who are visually impaired over the course of his career – but especially in the past year, 2020 presented new challenges in educating students with visual impairments as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, and he rose to the occasion and helped set new standards and best practices for remote learning for this community.

“I am humbled to be chosen as the 2020 Teacher of the Year because I know there are so many dedicated and great educators in our field, many of whom I have the privilege of working with every day. This year, teachers of students with vision loss were challenged with providing access to and instruction in braille through distance learning. Through collaboration with colleagues and listening to students, TVIs were able to find solutions to the many barriers created by distance learning and maintain a high standard of education. I am grateful for all the members of my professional network who support my students and me. As the coordinator of the NYC Braille Challenge, I am proud of our students who were successful in the 2020 Braille Challenge nationals, and I am honored to be recognized alongside them this year,” said Hooper.

Student and teacher Jonathan play a drum together.

Sanah and Jonathan play a drum together during a music break.

Teacher Jonathan guides a second grader on field trip through busy streets of Manhattan

Jonathan guides Nael, a second grader, through the busy streets of Manhattan on a field trip to attend a special performance of Sponge Bob on Broadway with live audio descriptions.

Beyond teaching, Hooper has demonstrated a dedication to the larger blind and visually impaired community, providing outreach and support to families and other professionals. He regularly conducts presentations and hosts webinars focusing on curriculum adaptations, strategies, and considerations for improving student outcomes.

A well-rounded educator in the field, Hooper also has extensive experience working with students with cortical visual impairment, deafblindness, and low vision.  He serves as an advisor for the New York Deafblind Collaborative and as a board member of the New York State Association for the Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired (AER).

Employed by the New York City Department of Education, Hooper is an itinerant teacher of students with visual impairments. Additionally, he currently teaches braille at Hunter College, which is part of the City University of New York, in their nationally-recognized TVI program. Previously, he was a mathematics teacher at the Tennessee School for the Blind and a reading and literacy elementary classroom teacher.

Hooper holds a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from the University of Tennessee at Martin, a master’s degree in curriculum and instruction from Middle Tennessee State University, and a master’s degree from Vanderbilt University in working with students with visual impairment. He has been published in the Journal of Visual Impairment and Blindness in the areas of braille and Nemeth Code.

Teacher Jonathan reads a story in braille with a first grader.

Jonathan reads a story in braille with Anne, a first grader.

This award is part of Braille Institute’s Braille Challenge® program, the only academic competition of its kind in North America for students who are blind or visually impaired, which motivates them to hone their braille literacy skills.

For more information on Braille Challenge, visit