was a two-time Division I All-American.Bill Closson
is an imposing guy.A two-time, Division I All-American heavyweight collegiate wrestler from Pittsburgh, Closson
won the Pennsylvania state championships in high school and placed sixth during the 1996 Olympic trials.
Tall and muscular, he
looks like the top bouncer at the hippest nightclub in town.Yet Closson, who "hung up the shoes" seven years ago and became a high school social studies teacher, has his sights on a career to help children without sight.Closson is a master's degree student in Northern Illinois University's Programs in Vision, located in the Department of Teaching and Learning in the College of Education.
"You're there to put them on a level playing field," Closson
, and students like him, are desperately needed.
...As an undergrad at Lehigh University, Closson studied business and never gave "a lot of thought" to a different career until performing volunteer work at the local Boys and Girls Club.
"I thought, 'This is what I want to do - work with kids.' It was a little late to switch majors," said Closson
, who was in his
junior year then at a university without an undergraduate education program.
"I was not even aware that these programs existed," Closson
said."In wrestling, you see athletes who are visually impaired, but this program was my first exposure to the educational and personal development that got these athletes to that level."
At NIU, Closson
is pursuing dual certification as a teacher of visually impaired children and in orientation and mobility.He will graduate in December and, this summer, will work an internship in orientation and mobility at the Hines VA Hospital near Chicago before student-teaching.
The Blind Rehabilitation Center at Hines VA
is one of nine active blind rehabilitation facilities in the Department of Veterans Affairs
.Closson also volunteers as a coach for the Wisconsin Association of Blind Athletes, where he taught wrestling and judo.
"I appreciate the problem-solving component: 'What do I need to do to get this kid on par with his
peers?' " he
said."I like that I can get involved with athletics, too."He
role as an advocate for the field he
"It's a tragedy when services do exist and people aren't receiving them," he