Jody May has always had a passion for education.
Before losing her eyesight, May was studying education at the Madison campus of Ivy Tech Community College. She had plans to transfer to Hanover College, where she would continue studying Education, focusing on special education and the music industry.
After the fateful July 2012 crash that caused May to lose her sight, she struggled to find ways to get back to her passion for teaching.
“I needed to find a way to connect my love for educating others and my health,” May said.
May received a call from Bosma – a Midwest-based non-profit that provides training and employment for people who are blind or visually impaired – about a new rehabilitation program in Indianapolis that would begin on the anniversary of her car accident.
When May began the program, she discovered another southern Indiana resident was part of the Bosma program and was placed in the same hotel. May describes this time as her pivotal “aha!” moment.
“He couldn’t even boil a pot of water,” May said, laughing. “We really got a chance to connect, and I showed him how to make his favorite meal, and within three or four weeks, he was cooking barbecue pork chops and mashed potatoes for himself.”
She was already considering returning to school to study education, but now she knew her focus would be on the culinary arts.
May had always enjoyed cooking when she had her vision and often made meals for friends, family, and co-workers. That enjoyment turned into her new passion when she realized she could still make her way around a kitchen despite her vision loss.
“Connecting with the kitchen is what saved my mental health after the loss of my eyesight,” May said. “Everybody has a right to build independence in the kitchen.”
A Recipe for Success
May was awarded the Nina Mason Pulliam Trust Scholarship to study at Ivy Tech Indianapolis in 2019. Since then, she has been non-stop on her mission to teach other blind and visually impaired individuals to find their way around the kitchen.
The number one question May gets is, “How do you approach teaching someone to work in a kitchen who doesn’t have sight?”
And May says figuring out those workarounds and showing her instructors how she can utilize her other senses to work in the kitchen effectively has been the best part of her educational journey at Ivy Tech.
“It was as much of a learning process for me as it was for them,” May said.
When it was time to start building up her student teaching hours, May went straight to the Indiana School for the Blind and Visually Impaired in Indianapolis.
She was placed in the school’s “Extra Core Curriculum” class. According to May, students in these classes learn skills imperative for an independent lifestyle, such as folding laundry, washing dishes, and cleaning.
“When I did my hours there, I focused on meal prepping. They learned how to use knives and identify tools. And then in the evenings – because they have to stay in the dorms – I would go over there two nights a week to help them cook their own meals,” May explained.
At the end of her student teaching term, May found out that the students at the Indiana School for the Blind and Visually Impaired thoroughly enjoyed her teaching. As a result, the administration asked if she’d return to teach more cooking classes. She has since agreed, continuing to fuel her passion for cooking and teaching others.
“I really want to help those students that are getting ready to graduate from high school and go off to college to be independent in the kitchen so they don’t have to rely on somebody else to feed themselves,” May said.
Over her last four years at Ivy Tech, May has earned two degrees in elementary education and hospitality, focusing on culinary arts. In addition, she became a member of Phi Theta Kappa, the Indiana Student Hospitality Association, and countless other organizations.
After graduating in May, May will begin studying abroad in Paris, France, with about 10 other culinary arts students. After that, she will transfer to IUPUI for her Bachelor’s in Education.
“I’m here to take down those barriers that were in place so somebody else that goes behind me – whether it be the hospitality field or the education field – can walk through,” May said.
May’s biggest advice to students who are blind and want to get into the culinary arts is to remember to give themselves grace. “There’s always going to be bumps in the road, but work to find those workarounds and always advocate for yourself.”
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