Dr. Thomas Behler has been teaching for 30 years, with 21 of those years at Ferris, and is legally blind.
Behler, a professor of sociology, said he has been blind since birth. He does not let that hinder his ability to live a “normal” life. Born premature, Behler said he was exposed to too much oxygen in the incubator, leading to permanent blindness.
However, he is not dismayed and is grateful for what he does have.
“I wouldn’t be who I am today,” he said in regard to his disability. Growing up, he said his parents were proactive in helping him to lead just as much of a normal life as any other child. Instead of going to schools for the blind, Behler attended “regular” schools.
“I don’t take no for an answer,” Behler said.
A number of Ferris students said they enjoy having Behler as an instructor. On the website ratemyprofessors.com, Behler received a lot of positive feedback from previous and current students.
One student commented, “One of my favorite teachers last year.” Another student posted, “Really good teacher.”
Rebecca Young, a secondary English education major, said, “My husband has him this semester and so far he loves him – said he’s really nice and easy to get along with. “
Behler said he faces challenges daily, some easy and some hard. Behler said some of his easier challenges include monitoring tests, which he said is a lot easier than it used to be.
He said he used to have individuals read the papers to him, but now he has students e-mail him their papers and has his computer “talk to him” by reading the papers so he can save them, read through them and add comments.
Some of the more difficult challenges include catching students who are texting or not paying attention in class.
Behler does have an assistant who lets him know what is happening in class.
“My ears are my eyes,” Behler said.
Also, Behler said other students help him out with similar issues as it aggravates them when certain students take advantage of the situation.
He also said, “What happens is the class controls itself, students let me know.”
Behler said he deals with these issues openly and honestly among his students, and tells them on the first day of class what to expect.
“If you respect me, I’ll give you all the respect in the world,” he said.
Behler’s way of teaching class is through lectures/discussions. He said he needs a lot of verbal feedback when it comes to asking and answering questions.
“They need to become audio learners,” Behler said. “I think it works out fairly well.”
Behler began teaching at Ferris in 1990. He has been teaching sociology since the 1980s and has a Bachelor’s in Sociology from Moravian College, a Master’s in Sociology from Rutger’s University and his PhD in Sociology from the University of Delaware.
He has been married for 36 years. His wife is sighted and he also has a 28-year-old son who lives in Missouri.
According to Behler, “Life needs to be lived,” and he wouldn’t want it any
other way. n