A Red Deer student who recently wrote about her life with partial blindness has earned high marks in her Grade 9 language arts class.
Francesca Tietzsch, 14, of St. Francis of Assisi Middle School, was one of four students recognized for their 100-word memoir assignments on Tuesday.
When she was in Grade 3, Tietzsch started having trouble seeing in class and was diagnosed with Stargardt disease, a progressive, genetic disorder that affects eyesight in children and adolescents.
After she was diagnosed, $17,000 was raising in the community to purchase specialized glasses that allow her to see distances, whether it’s the television a few feet away, or a musician on stage at a concert.
“When I’m watching TV, I can sit on the couch instead of being five inches from the TV,” Tietzsch said.
She said getting the glasses, and the support of the community, was a good memory from her childhood, and that’s why she decided to write about the experience.
“I’m not much of a writer, but I was very much into that assignment,” said Tietzsch, who wants to pursue a career in drawing and art.
At school, Tietzsch uses a tablet that can take photos to enlarge images, allows her to send and receive emails, and reads to her to assist her in class.
She said being different and requiring specialized equipment has sometimes meant being the target of teasing or “minor messing around.” But she is determined to focus on her education.
“I’ve been getting better using my voice to ask for things I need, like bigger pages, or thicker text, or asking for a closer seat to the front, and using devices more often instead of being afraid about it.”
Her mother, Adriana Tietzsch, said losing her sight has been difficult for her daughter, but school staff helped her learn Braille in case she loses her sight, and continue to provide support.
“Everybody is different. We’re not all the same. This is her reality,” said her mother.
She said Francesca’s eyesight has not deteriorated any further in the past four years. That could change in the future, but her daughter is determined to move on with her life and excel.
“Nothing, or no one, can stop her. We’re very proud of her.”