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Helen Keller's Teacher

post written by Emma Filbrun

Title: Helen Keller’s Teacher
Author: Margaret Davidson
Major Themes: Annie Sullivan, Blindness, Deafness, Helen Keller, Family Read-alouds, Biography, US History 1865-1900
Synopsis: Can a nearly-blind woman from a broken, very poor family do anything to help a little blind and deaf girl?

Helen Keller’s Teacher has always been one of my favorite biographies—and my older daughter just mentioned that it has always been one of her favorites! I remember reading it for the first time when I was about 8 or 9, and finding it fascinating. I don’t think it’s the writing style that has made it a favorite, but the content.

Annie Sullivan started life with a happy family—but then she contracted an eye disease. Being too poor to take her to a good doctor, her family had to watch her suffer, and then her mother became sick with a terminal illness. Her father turned to drink to drown his sorrow, and when the mother died, her three children were sent to relative’s homes. After a year or so, young Annie and her brother found themselves living in the poor house, where she went blind.

After some time, Annie was given a scholarship to attend a school for the blind, and after graduation and an operation which restored part of her sight, she was hired to tutor a little girl who was both blind and deaf—Helen Keller. How would she handle the child, who was completely undisciplined, and virtually a wild animal? How could she communicate with this child and teach her anything?

I am always amazed at what Annie was able to accomplish with Helen, and what Helen was able to learn. The story of the breakthrough, when Helen finally realized that Annie was trying to get ideas across to her and that words had meaning, is one of my lifelong favorite stories. It is absolutely incredible. I was glad that one of my boys chose Helen Keller’s Teacher from the shelf for me to read aloud to them, and I highly recommend it for everyone to read.

WARNING: Chapter 3: Are you a devil? Chapter 4: You little devil. Chapter 6: cursed them roundly to herself. Chapter 10: Persistent little devil.

Age Levels:

Read Aloud—Ages 5 – 8, 8 – 12, Family Read Alouds
Reading Independently—Ages 7 – 9, 8 – 12


Links to buy Helen Keller’s Teacher:

Amazon: Paperback

AbeBooks: View Choices on

Book Depository: Paperback


Annie Sullivan, Blindness, Deafness, Helen Keller, Family Read-alouds, Biography, US History 1865-1900

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