Tina Barnes’ talent for helping College students succeed despite disabilities emerged decades ago in a dentist’s chair. In high school, she worked for a dentist who treated children with disabilities. “A lot of times I was holding the kids because they were scared to be there,” she said.
That part-time job helped convince Barnes to enter the special education field. After graduating from The George Peabody College for Teachers at Vanderbilt University, she began a career as a special education teacher and worked for various public schools before coming to the College in 2000. Her husband, Rick Barnes, has taught psychology and environmental studies here since 1981.
Today, she leads Randolph College’s Disability Services and the Learning Strategies Program, which help provide students with disabilities or other challenges the accommodations or tools they need to succeed academically. “I love working with folks and making such a huge difference in their lives,” Barnes said.
Barnes assists students with disabilities that range from dyslexia to broken bones. She helps them find accommodations, such as computer programs and other tools, that allow them to keep up with the College workload. She also oversees the Learning Strategies Program, which pairs peer tutors with students to address self-management and study techniques.
“It gives them some skills that they will use not only now, but all their lives. It raises their self-esteem,” she said. “Sometimes we’re just showing them what they can be.”
Her love for serving people with disabilities abounds off campus, too. Since 1993, Barnes has helped run Camp CHILD, a nonprofit summer program for children with disabilities.
Barnes cherishes the personal connections she has made with college students over the years. That is evident in her collection of more than 350 pens from around the world. Many of those pens were gifts from students and faculty who visited other countries. The pens symbolize much more than a souvenir to Barnes. “Truthfully, I couldn’t care less about pens,” Barnes said. “It’s the fact that someone is in South Africa, or someone is in Mauritius, and they think about you.”