Amazing Teachers: Anne Sullivan

Thank you @amightygirl  for sharing this post about Anne Sullivan and Helen Keller. This reminded me to share the little known fact that I wrote in my Boston College admission’s essay on Anne Sullivan. The tutors at Spiral Skills Tutoring @SpiralSkillsTutoring have been preparing to teach your students for more than 30 years!

“Anne Sullivan — Helen Keller’s teacher and close companion for 49 years, was born on this day in 1866. The child of poor Irish immigrants, Sullivan herself went blind as a child due to untreated trachoma and was sent to the Perkins School for the Blind in Boston. Though her vision was partially restored after surgery, she remained visually impaired throughout her life.
After Sullivan graduated as class valedictorian, the school director recommended the 20 year old for a position teaching 6-year-old Helen Keller in the small town of Tuscumbia, Alabama. Keller, who had been left blind and deaf due to disease as a toddler, had very limited means of communication but her young teacher soon helped her break out of, as Keller later described, the “silence and darkness that surrounded me.” Keller’s famous breakthrough in understanding that every object had a unique sign identifying it came when Sullivan ran cool water over her student’s hand while signing the word “water” with the other. After this realization, Keller became a vigorous learner, eager to learn the signs for all of the other objects in the world around her.
Sullivan stayed by her side for 49 years, helping Keller on her journey to become the first deaf-blind person to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree and to later become world famous as a writer and advocate on behalf of women’s suffrage, labor rights, and disability rights. Together, they traveled to over 40 countries as Keller became the world’s most prominent voice speaking on behalf of the rights of people with disabilities. In describing the transformative impact Anne Sullivan had on her life, Keller once stated, “Once I knew only darkness and stillness… my life was without past or future… but a little word from the fingers of another fell into my hand that clutched at emptiness, and my heart leaped to the rapture of living.”
For children’s books about the special bond between Anne and Helen, we highly recommend the picture book “I Am Helen Keller” for ages 4 to 8 (, the graphic novel “Annie Sullivan and the Trials of Helen Keller” for 9 and up (, and the historical fiction novel “Miss Spitfire” for ages 10 and up (
For more books to introduce Helen Keller to kids, we recommend the chapter book “Helen Keller: The World At Her Fingertips” for ages 4 to 7 (, the picture book “Helen’s Big World: The Life of Helen Keller” for ages 6 to 9 (, the classic children’s biography for ages 7 to 12 (, and the new graphic novel “Helen Keller: Inspiration to Everyone!” for ages 8 to 13 (
Helen Keller is also one of the role models featured in the Inspiring Women Doll series at
For adults, we recommend the fascinating biography “Beyond the Miracle Worker: The Remarkable Life of Anne Sullivan Macy and Her Extraordinary Friendship with Helen Keller” at
The Oscar-winning film “The Miracle Worker” also tells the story of Anne and Helen’s lifelong friendship, for ages 8 and up, at — or you can stream it online at
And for a variety of children’s books featuring Mighty Girls with disabilities, visit our blog post “Many Ways To Be Mighty: 35 Books Starring Mighty Girls with Disabilities” at″