STORIES
Teachers Heroes

Anne Sullivan

by Jessica from San Diego

Helen Keller as a child (http://www.helenkellerfoundation.org)
Helen Keller as a child (http://www.helenkellerfoundation.org)

“The important thing is not so much that every child should be taught, as that every child should be given the wish to learn” (John Lubbock). This quote from John Lubbock describes Anne Sullivan very well. Anne Sullivan’s love of teaching and her desire to inspire all of her students to learn, prevailed throughout her entire life. Anne Sullivan was born on April 14th, 1866, in Feeding Hills, Massachusetts. As a young child, an infection damaged her eyes leaving her nearly blind. At a young age, she was forced to live in an orphanage (Women in History). Anne Sullivan was an admired teacher, who became Helen Keller’s mentor. Anne spent most of her adult life as Helen Keller’s teacher and friend. Helen Keller was a blind, deaf, and mute child, who was taught by Anne Sullivan. Sullivan died on October 20th, 1936, in New York. Anne graduated from Perkins Institute for the Blind in 1886, as class valedictorian. Anne and Helen went to the Cambridge School for Young Ladies (World of Health). During her lifetime, Anne overcame many difficulties but she still persevered and achieved her goals. She was an inspirational mentor for people with many types of disabilities. She was an exceptional person, who never stopped learning and teaching, throughout her life. Anne’s dedication and love of teaching, made it possible for her students to fulfill their dreams. With her perseverance, dedication, and intelligence, Anne Sullivan did not let anything stop her from teaching and inspiring others to overcome any obstacles they may have in life.

Anne Sullivan showed perseverance and dedication to Helen Keller even though she had to overcome her own obstacles. Anne Sullivan had to endure her disability from a very early age in life: “Sullivan's youth was not a happy one. As a child, an infection damaged her eyes, causing them to weaken throughout her early life until she was nearly blind” (World of Health). Anne’s blindness did not prevent her from achieving her goal, to help other disabled people in need. Anne’s love of education and teaching inspired others. Anne’s attainment of her goals was a motivation to all people, even those without disabilities. Many people, for her strength and determination, admired her. Anne had to gain Helen Keller’s trust before she could begin to teach her. Anne wanted to establish a system of communication for Helen: “Keller had had little discipline, and Sullivan's first efforts were divided between establishing rules and order and creating a system of communication between herself and the young girl” (Encyclopedia of World Biography 2nd). Anne knew that in order to reach Helen, she would need a way of communicating with her. She knew that the key to Helen learning and being able to communicate with others, had to begin with some form of speech. Anne developed a system of language by writing the words in Helen’s palm and feeling the shape of the letters (World of Health). Anne Sullivan was not only a hero for overcoming her own obstacles, but for her dedication and perseverance as a teacher to others with disabilities.

Anne Sullivan
Anne Sullivan

Works Consulted

Anne Sullivan Macy. "World of Health. Gale, 2006. Gale Student Resources In Context. Web. 24 Mar. 2011.

"Anne Sullivan Macy." Encyclopedia of World Biography. 2nd ed. Vol. 20. Detroit: Gale, 2004. 237-239. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 28 Mar. 2011.

"Sullivan, Anne Mansfield (1866-1936)." Encyclopedia of World Biography. Ed. Jim Craddock. Vol. 29. 2nd ed. Detroit: Gale, 2009. Student Resource Center - Junior. Gale. DEL NORTE HIGH SCHOOL. Date accessed 3/30/2011

Women in History. Annie Sullivan biography. Last Updated: 3/30/2011. Lakewood Public Library. Date accessed 3/30/2011

Anne Sullivan and Helen Keller (Photo courtesy: New England Historic Genealogical Society)
Anne Sullivan and Helen Keller (Photo courtesy: New England Historic Genealogical Society)

Anne Sullivan possessed intelligence because she excelled in school and was able to educate Helen Keller despite her disability. Anne Sullivan worked hard to master the manual alphabet to help others, who are blind and deaf: “While at Perkins, Sullivan learned the manual alphabet; a kind of language that uses a series of hand motions to represent letters and is used mostly by people who are both blind and deaf” (World of Health). Anne’s expertise, with the manual language, gave her the necessary tools to train Helen Keller. This language enabled Helen to express herself and to communicate with the outside world. Anne had to spend many hours with Helen trying to help her understand the methods of this alphabet. This was a very tedious process, which took hours of patience for both of them (Women in History). Many teachers throughout her life recognized Anne Sullivan’s intelligence: “A few teachers recognized Sullivan's intelligence and tamed her headstrong ways. Anagnos encouraged her to tutor younger students” (Encyclopedia of World Biography). During Anne’s childhood, her intelligence was not noticed because of her disabilities and insecurities due to her difficult past. Anne had to overcome her insecurities for her talents to break through for others to appreciate. As Anne began to gain confidence in herself, academically and personally, her true self lead others to see how intelligent she was. Anne’s talent, as a teacher and a mentor to Helen Keller, enriched both of their lives. Anne Sullivan’s intellect and skills, as a teacher and a mentor, inspired Helen Keller and many others to realize that they can shine, no matter what obstacles and disabilities they may have.

“We cannot hold a torch to light another's path without brightening our own” (Ben Sweetland). Anne’s perseverance, dedication, and intelligence enabled her to keep on striving to achieve her goals of helping others to have a fulfilling life. From an early age, Anne Sullivan had to overcome, personal and physical, disabilities. Her determination guided her to succeed academically to become a teacher. Anne had a life-long relationship with Helen Keller. Helen was a young, blind, deaf, and mute child, who Anne educated throughout her life. Anne introduced a system of language to Helen that enabled her to recognize words and sounds (Encyclopedia of World Biography 2nd). Her teachings lead Helen to have a meaningful life. Anne was an encouragement to Helen and to many others like her. Anne Sullivan is inspirational to others because she overcame her own disability to mentor and to teach others to believe in yourself and persevere to achieve your goals and dreams. Even though, Anne’s life was tragic in many ways, she always had a positive outlook on life and all that it had to offer. In my eyes, Anne Sullivan was a true hero because she dedicated her life to teaching and mentoring people with disabilities, for the purpose of helping them lead successful lives. Her life was enriched as much as her student’s lives were. Anne Sullivan was a teacher who gave all she had to her students so that they could achieve their own personal goals and be happy. Anne was a true example of how a person, with a disability could enjoy a successful and meaningful life.

Page created on 4/23/2011 12:00:00 AM

Last edited 4/23/2011 12:00:00 AM

The beliefs, viewpoints and opinions expressed in this hero submission on the website are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the beliefs, viewpoints and opinions of The MY HERO Project and its staff.

Related Links

The Annie Mansfield Sullivan Foundation, Inc. Anne M. Sullivan - Anne Mansfield Sullivan Foundation supports the blind.
The Annie Mansfield Sullivan Foundation, Inc. In Memory - Anne Mansfield Sullivan Foundation, in memory of Anne Bancroft- actress who played Annie Sullivan
The Annie Mansfield Sullivan Foundation, Inc. Sullivan/Keller Museum - Anne Mansfield Sullivan Foundation supports Sullivan/Keller Museum