Former Paralympian now teaches blind

Monday, September 15th 2008, 7:57 pm
By: News 9

By Jennifer Pierce, NEWS 9

OKLAHOMA CITY -- The Olympics may be over, but another group of athletes is going for the gold.

The Paralympics is underway right now in Beijing. The competition brings together the best disabled athletes in the world. One former Paralympian, now a teacher at Putnam City High School, is inspiring a winning attitude in her students.

From the outside it may look like any other class, except this Latin teacher brings something unique.

"We don't see her any differently than any other teacher," student Tony Quintana said.

Dawn Duffy-Relf has been legally blind since birth. But her parents raised her to live in a sighted world.

"Just because I have a disability didn't mean that I could not do anything that someone else could do," Duffy-Relf said.

With that attitude she pursued sports. Duffy-Relf found her talents in swimming which earned her a spot on the USA Paralympics swim team.

"They are amazing athletes, regardless of their disability, they are very high caliber," Duffy-Relf said.

Duffy-Relf was only 15-years-old when she competed with athletes from around the world; the same age as many of her students.

"I think it is really amazing she can do it with her disability," student Kat Scott said. "She's great for it and inspires a lot of people."

You might wonder how Duffy-Relf can manage a class when she can't see her students. It's because her students can see her passion for teaching.

"She's a great teacher; she knows different techniques to help you learn and it seems like everyone learns every day," student Kayla O'Donnel said.

In this class, students learn a different language and life lessons.

"My goal is two-fold," Duffy-Relf said. "One that they see that people with disabilities are no different than anybody else and at the same time I need them to understand that someone with disabilities do, do things differently."

Duffy-Relf took home the silver in the 2000 games. This year's games wrap up on Wednesday.