GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Teachers play an important role in their students’ lives. For one educator in Kent County, her former student nominated her for an international award.  

April Makley has been a Kent Intermediate School District teacher consultant for 22 years. She spends her days traveling to different schools and working with visually impaired students. 

“When I was a young child, I read all about Louis Braille and Helen Keller, which led me to a career in teaching,” Makley said. 

One of the kids she teaches is Javier Sanchez, who is heading into the third grade at Collins Elementary School in Forest Hills. 

“He is working on reading speed, writing speed. He is working on technology to utilize those things as well as an abacus, which is something that he will utilize to compute in the classroom when other kiddos use paper and pencil,” Makley said. 

She has had many students like Javier in the past, and one of them decided to nominate her for an award. And Makley won. 

“I was stunned and amazed,” Makley said. 

She is this year’s Braille Institute International Teacher of the Year. She went up against educators across the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom. 

“I think this award is for all of the teachers who do what we do because we work hard,” Makley said. 

She said she doesn’t do her job for the praise. She does it for the kids she teaches. 

“It’s a very low incidence population, but these kiddos are out here, and they’re just as capable as any other kiddo out there,” Makley said. 

Along with her co-teacher, Miss Jen, they help open the world of learning up to kids like Javier. 

“Our focus is independence and literacy, and as you can see by the braille everywhere here. This lady gets every opportunity to put braille into my friend’s hands,” Makley said. “Braille is access. Our goal is to smash any barriers that the kiddos will have to being able to participate in their general education classroom.”

She will be heading to California to accept her award on June 24, joining her former student who nominated her.