06/05/2012 02:39 pm ET

Jim Hughes, Visually Disabled Teacher From New York, Inspires Public High School Students

A blind teacher is illuminating the lives of his students at a public high school in Farmingdale, N.Y., CBS News reports.

More than two decades ago, Jim Hughes told his college counselor that he wanted to teach at a public high school. She told him that his disability made that goal impossible.

But Hughes -- blind since the age of 3 from a hereditary form of glaucoma -- refused to be disheartened, sending out more than a hundred resumes.

Only one school responded.

"I came across that resume and it took me by shock -- how could a blind teacher possibly function in a classroom?," Steve Kussin, who was principal of Farmingdale High School at the time, told CBS News. "And boy am I glad I took a second look at that resume because it's made all the difference in the world to generations of students."

Today, Hughes, who teaches history, is one of Farmingdale High School's best and most beloved teachers.

His students say that far from impeding his teaching, Hughes' blindness has enhanced his ability to engage with the classroom.

"[Other teachers] are blinded with the power points and the handouts and all that. Every teacher should try a day with a blindfold and really learn how to talk to your students," one high schooler said, adding that students rarely cheat in Hughes' classroom out of respect for their teacher.

In recognition of his exemplary service, Hughes was awarded the Freida J. Riley Teacher Award by the Christopher Columbus Fellowship Foundation in 2006.

Hughes, who is a married father of two, insists that he is just doing what he loves.

"I am at home in the classroom," Hughes said, according to Christopher Columbus Fellowship Foundation's website.

"Blindness helps me to connect to students on a different level. If my ability to overcome challenges has given at least one of my students the courage to overcome his/her own obstacles, then I am grateful for being blind. My disability has been an asset in teaching; and since that is my niche, I wouldn’t have it any other way,” he said.