Viorel is a special education teacher at the high school for visually impaired children in Cluj, the same high school he graduated from. At 7 years old, he came to Cluj-Napoca to study, and after high school, he pursued special education. In 2007, he started working alongside his teacher and mentor, Vasile Adamescu, a person with deafblindness.
"Almost everything I am today is due to him, and I have tried to steal as many of his qualities as possible" Viorel says about Mr. Adamescu, whom he describes as "a mountain of a man in a fragile body." He worked as an interpreter and communication guide for Mr. Adamescu for 11 years, and his mentor inspired him as a teacher also.
"I always say that my students are like my own children, that's how I feel about them. When you enter the classroom, their faces light up, they shout your name, jump and embrace you. It's the most important moment of the day, of the month, the year!", says Viorel.
He first heard about the Sense International Romania (SIR) when he was a student, also from Mr. Adamescu. In 2006, he accompanied him to a meeting, and after that followed conferences and roundtable discussions, meetings with specialists in the field, authorities, and individuals with deafblindness. He has fond memories of their first outdoor trip, when they climbed a mountain and took a boat ride on the Danube, as well as the conferences organized by SIR.
"Everything SIR does is at European level, every meeting. At the 2015 Deafblind International conference in Bucharest, there were people from about 40 countries. I think there were 400 people; it was like an anthill. We had the opportunity to meet many specialists, people whose articles we had read, but also people with deafblindness who excelled at what they did", remembers Viorel.
Another aspect he appreciates is the training courses organized by SIR, especially considering the fact that "universities only provide theoretical support and very little practical training." He completed the first edition of the online initiation course in 2021. He remembers eagerly awaiting the Monday evenings when the live sessions with the trainers took place.
Very informative were the meetings organized by SIR together with local and central authorities. This is how he learned about the services provided by the state and was able to guide parents accordingly.
In his opinion, the early intervention program developed by SIR was also very important: "early intervention is essential for a child with deafblindness. The early years are crucial in a child's life, and without this early intervention, they fall behind. When you have a child in kindergarten or school who has benefited from early intervention, the difference is clear" he emphasizes.
The young teacher considers the work of SIR to be very important and sometimes wonders what would have happened in Romania had the organization not existed: "probably, we wouldn't know what deafblindness means; we wouldn't have this term. Maybe there wouldn't be early intervention, and there wouldn't be such excellent teachers and many other things" he concludes.
Viorel is greatly motivated when he sees the progress of his students, their desire to learn and overcome their condition.
"I have a pupil at school who started speaking at the age of 12. And last year, she started learning to write and read, to do calculations. Now she is 14 years old and can write letter by letter, dictation-style" he adds. In the classroom, he works hard to teach his students life skills: they go out together on the streets, take the bus, visit parks, museums, and supermarkets. Thursdays are usually spent in the skills room where they cook, iron clothes, vacuum, and use other household appliances. Wednesday is cooking day.
"We think about what recipe to make, write it down, list the ingredients and preparation method, divide the tasks. We make our shopping list and go to the store; each person buys their items from the list and pays. So it's a whole adventure" Viorel adds.
He believes that love for this profession and creativity are the key ingredients.
"A special education teacher must love their profession very much, and be very creative. Everything is done with heart in this profession; you do it out of vocation."
Driven by his vocation, he works with his children with multisensory impairments and feels his work has a big impact. This way, he carries on the legacy of Mr. Vasile Adamescu, whom he constantly feels by his side. "I always feel his energy! It's interesting that in the classroom where he worked, on the ground floor, you can still smell the scent of clay and other substances he used. I constantly sense him next to me. A large part of what I am able to do at school today is thanks to him because he was absolutely stellar in the classroom, even though he lacked sight and hearing."
In February 2023, when Sense International Romania celebrated its 22nd anniversary, Viorel’s efforts and commitment were acknowledged and celebrated as he received the Award Promoter of the Rights of People with Deafblindness in Romania, 2023 edition.
Story written by Cristina Botezatu