ISBVI Alumni Spotlight: Kathy Nimmer
By: Seth Johnson
Note: In celebration of ISBVI’s 175th anniversary, we’re catching up with alumni to learn more about the school’s impact on their life. Kathy’s is the first of several alumni we plan on spotlighting in the coming months.
As an educator of three decades, Kathy Nimmer admits it was the teachers she had at Indiana School for the Blind and Visually Impaired (ISBVI) that led her down the path she’s on today.
“I took pieces from all of those teachers at the Blind School, and then used them in who I am now,” Nimmer says. “People were not just surface-connected down there. It was a lot of care, compassion, and support that went into the experience at the Blind School.”
A 1987 graduate of ISBVI, Nimmer taught English at Harrison High School in West Lafayette for 29 years before transitioning into her current role as SEEDS program director with the Tippecanoe School Corporation (SEEDS is a mentorship program for new teachers in the district). In addition to being an ISBVI alumni, Nimmer has also served on the IBCF board since 2020.
After starting school in her hometown of West Lafayette, Nimmer eventually transferred to ISBVI in 1980 as her visual impairment continued to worsen due to cone-rod dystrophy. Before attending ISBVI, Nimmer remembers that she and her family were impressed by the student-led tour they received of the school.
“That was impactful because to that point I actually knew nobody who was visually impaired,” Nimmer says. “Having someone with low vision take us around was influential to all of us.”
While attending ISBVI, Nimmer had a few teachers who really made an impact on her. One of those was her piano teacher, Linda Francisco, who helped Nimmer to fully realize her talent as a pianist.
“She was a game-changer for me. We clicked really early teacher-to-student, and we’re still friends now,” Nimmer says. “I just had a lot of grief that I was dealing with, but piano was that oasis for me. And then, once I discovered I was actually good, it became so fulfilling.”
Another teacher that really made a mark on Nimmer was science instructor Becky Heck.
“We dissected frogs, and we did all kinds of interactive things that they would have absolutely waved me from or had me just be passively involved in at public school,” Nimmer says. “I was highly aware that that was unique and impactful.”
Like many students who travel from across the state to attend ISBVI, Nimmer lived in the on-campus dorms from Monday through Friday and would only visit home on weekends. Through living in the dorms, she learned some important life lessons.
“I just remember that whole structure of learning about humans you’re living with,” Nimmer says. “Some of them you like, and some of them you don’t like. It helped me to be more flexible and open-minded about all different kinds of people. Some of the house parents were fantastic too. I loved some of them to the moon and back.”
Ultimately, Nimmer couldn’t be more thankful for the ways that ISBVI staff influenced her life.
“The Blind School wasn’t the first time I had great teachers, but people like Linda Francisco and Becky Heck demonstrated to me what that personal connection was like,” Nimmer says. “Because the classes are so small by default, there’s a lot of one-on-one time and a lot of relationship building. That mattered, and I wanted to be for them what they were for me.”