Staff Spotlight: Michael Cantino
Students and staff alike have a great deal of respect and affection for Michael Cantino. He’s widely admired for his dedication to students, his specialized expertise, and for his even-tempered demeanor and good humor. Michael joined Columbia Regional Program (CRP) in 2012 as a para-educator trainer, dividing his time between the autism and blind/visually impaired (BVI) departments.
Working with students in the BVI program, Michael learned to transcribe braille. After passing a rigorous assessment, he earned his certification from the Library of Congress in Literary braille transcription. Then in 2015, Michael accepted a newly created Braille Transcriber position at CRP. Our teachers of the visually impaired who serve braille students submit classroom materials to Michael for transcription. He's proficient in Literary, Nemeth (math), and Unified English Braille (UEB) codes.
In fact, Michael knows most of the braille readers served by our BVI program and where they are instructionally in process of learning braille. This knowledge allows him to customize transcribed documents based upon the unique needs of each learner. Textbooks, worksheets, and classroom documents usually include tables, illustrations, and breakout boxes that add complexity to the transcription process. Michael is detail-oriented in his approach, carefully transcribing materials into a format that will prepare students for the braille they going to encounter later in life. Michael avoids short cuts in transcription that he feels would short change students as they develop proficiency reading braille.
In addition to braille transcription, Michael is skilled in creating tactile graphics that provide students with a touch-based representation of visual materials including maps, diagrams, and drawings (see cell structure example to the left). These materials help ensure students who are blind or have low vision have access to the same materials as their sighted peers. Michael scans an image into Adobe Illustrator, makes any necessary adjustments, and “prints” the tactile graphic on an embosser.
Michael led the effort to purchase and setup our 3-D printer (below), which is now being used to print objects as teaching aids for the visually impaired. For example, for a unit on human anatomy, 3-D representations of the skeletal, circulatory, and digestive systems may be printed to provide alternative access to 2-D illustrations.
Assistive technology (AT) for BVI students is another area of expertise for Michael. He has taught students to operate a computer using JAWS and Apple voiceover screen reader software, and how to read and take notes with a refreshable braille display. He has setup video magnifiers so students can access print up close on their desks or across the room as teachers white on the white board. He’s familiar with the wide array of adapted materials available via the American Printing House for the Blind (APH) and the Oregon Textbook & Media Center.
In addition to everything else he does, Michael coaches our regional goalball team “The Braille Blazers”. The team competes in a statewide Goal-Ball tournament each year co-sponsored by the Northwest Blind Athletes Association. For a few weeks each summer, Michael helps run a residential summer camp funded by Oregon's Blind and Visually Impaired Student (BVIS) fund. Camp is held at Hull Park for the Blind in Sandy, Oregon and address skills across the expanded core curriculum (ECC), from social skills to self-advocacy.