Mary Demerritt Gordon
Teacher of Blind/Visually Impaired Students
Liberty Memorial High School
Mary grew up in the area occupied by Clinton Lake. She attended a 1 room school from First to the Eighth grade.
Her teaching career started in 1955 at the Junior High that occupied the former Liberty Memorial High School. She taught physical education there for two years. From 1957 -1962 she taught Girl's PE at a California middle school as well as Kindergarten and First grade.
In 1962 she returned to Lawrence where she taught Girl's PE and Physiology at Has ell for one year. She taught Kindergarten at New York School for two years, then spent a year at Sunset. From 1966 to 1968 she served as Elementary School Physical Education Consultant for the Lawrence School District.
In 1968 she became the first teacher in Lawrence for the blind and visually impaired, a position she held for the next 30 years. She was a pioneer in Special Education. She took classes for 2 summers in Greely Colorado learning how to read and teach Braille including translating tests to Braille. There were very few college programs that offered this very specialized training to certify teachers.
In 1978 and for the next 20 years she offered a unique program of taking blind and visually impaired students (Kindergarten through High School) on a ski trip to Aspen Colorado. There they all learned to ski. A program, Blind Outdoor Leisure Development, offered this unique experience, but hers was the only group to take advantage of the skiing. She arranged the school bus drivers, a trip to the Denver Zoo was included as was staying at a primitive camp for hearing impaired students. They furnished all their bedding and cooking supplies, cooking their own food. This lasted 5 years. Then a house in Snow Mass was donated by a family. They still purchased all the food and did their own cooking. They were always in the Aspen area for 4 - 5 days.
This was the only experience of its kind in the Nation for the visually impaired. In later trips they also included students from other schools in Eastern Kansas.
In 1993 Mary was named the Kansas Teach of the Year and joins a handful of other Kansas teachers named by Empire University as 'Master Teachers". In 1993 she was also named as Lawrence Teacher of the Year. In 1995 she received the Kansas Special Educator' s Award.
She retired in 1997 after 40 years of teaching but returned to the Lawrence District for the next 2 years helping the new teacher learn how to Braille and teach Braille to the Lawrence students.