From the Editor: In the National Federation of the Blind we present awards only as often as they are deserved. This year two were presented during the annual meeting of the NFB board of directors, one was presented during the Tuesday afternoon convention session, and one more was presented during the banquet. In addition the Bolotin Awards were again presented. A complete report of those presentations appears elsewhere in this issue. Here is the report of the educator awards, the Imaginator of the Year Award, and the tenBroek Award:
Distinguished Educator of Blind Children Award
by Cathy Jackson
When Dr. Maurer called me last fall and asked me if I would chair this year’s Distinguished Educator of Blind Children Award Committee, I said, “I’d like to do that, Dr. Maurer, but I’m not so sure that I’ll chair it my first year. I really don’t know what I’m doing.”
And he replied, “Well, Cathy, that’s never stopped you before.” With comments like that, how could I possibly say no?
I want to thank the rest of the committee: Carol Castellano, Allen Harris, Carla McQuillan, Mark Riccobono, and Mary Willows. They stood by me through the scanning software problems, the malfunctioning fax machines, and the yet-to-be-figured-out debacle with the U.S. Post Office. Thank you anyway.
I think it’s important to note that four of our five nominees are actually here at this convention. They were making plans to come whether or not they won the award, which I think speaks volumes about their character and their attitudes about blindness. I want to thank them all for being here. They bring unique qualities and techniques to their classrooms, but one common thread binds all of them together: they all have the highest expectations for their students.
However, it was our task to find the distinguished educator of 2010, and we did. She has a PhD in visual impairment and blindness with a concentration in orientation and mobility and in assessment from Boston College. She began teaching blind and visually impaired students thirty-nine years ago at the Boston Center for Blind Children. She also taught at the Perkins School for the Blind and in the Massachusetts school system. Currently she works full time for the DeKalb County Department of Education, just outside Atlanta, Georgia. Her job duties include teaching orientation and mobility, Braille, and technology skills. She also completes functional evaluations for all three-year-olds entering the school system, as well as doing functional assessments for other low-vision students.
Our winner has also been recognized for her work in the international realm. She has traveled to Asia to train teachers of preschoolers at schools for the blind. She has traveled to China for the Hilton Purpose Project for eight years and to Vietnam for the first time last year. She is one of fifteen national experts who work to develop guidelines to assist people in describing educational videos to children who are blind. She was featured in an article that appeared in Future Reflections titled, “Kendra’s Kindergarten Year: As Good as It Gets.”
She was presented the first ever NFB of Georgia Distinguished Educator of Blind Children Award in 2009. Anil Lewis, president of the NFB of Georgia, says, “There are just some people who get it, who understand that a blind person is first and foremost a person. Laurie Hudson is one who gets it.” [Applause] It gives me great pleasure to present this award to Dr. Laurel J. Hudson, so let me read the plaque:
NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND
LAUREL J. HUDSON, PhD
DISTINGUISHED EDUCATOR OF BLIND CHILDREN
FOR YOUR SKILL IN TEACHING BRAILLE AND OTHER ALTERNATIVE
TECHNIQUES OF BLINDNESS, FOR GENEROUSLY DEVOTING EXTRA TIME
TO MEET THE NEEDS OF YOUR STUDENTS, AND FOR INSPIRING YOUR
STUDENTS TO PERFORM BEYOND THEIR EXPECTATIONS.
YOU CHAMPION OUR MOVEMENT; YOU STRENGTHEN OUR HOPES;
YOU SHARE OUR DREAMS.
There is another important part of this award. We want to present you a $1,000 check for your outstanding work. Dr. Hudson will be available to sign autographs and for a photo-op.
Thank you so much.
Laurel Hudson: Thank you so very much. I love what’s on this plaque, “You champion our movement; you strengthen our hopes; you share our dreams.” That’s certainly my goal, and that has been my goal for the almost forty years that I have been teaching. Thank you so much to the Federation and to the board. Thank you to all of you NFB members and to my other blind friends and colleagues. Whenever I spend time with you people, I go back to my home schools, and I check the bar for my students. Am I expecting enough of them? Because my goal is that they will turn out like you, that they will have the independence, the capability, and the joy that you all have. I thank you all so much for letting me see on a regular basis what’s possible. I thank you to the awards committee and to Cathy. I can only imagine that there are many wonderful teachers out in the field. I’m sure the other candidates are fabulous teachers.
Cathy, when you called me, I can tell you where I was standing in my house. I can tell you what time it was. I was so excited. Then I thought the next morning, “Did I imagine it? Was it a dream?” I had to call you back the next day and make sure it really had happened. Thank you to Richard Holloway and to Stephanie Kieszak-Holloway. They are the leaders of GOPBC in Georgia, and they nominated me for this award. They have given me the opportunity to teach their daughter since she was three years old. Stephanie and Richard, once you were convinced that I had high standards for your daughter, you have given me so much confidence and so much trust. You have allowed me the wiggle room I need to teach your daughter well. And you have this great balance. On the one hand you stay very informed. You observe my lessons; you ask me tons of questions. You talk with me, and we exchange many, many dozens of emails, but you also give me a lot of room once you are convinced that I’m doing what I need to be doing. You don’t nickel-and-dime me.
I thank my family. I wish that they could be here, but we couldn’t work it out. They are proud as punch. My mother is funny. She is walking around to anybody she can buttonhole and saying, “See, I told you Laurie was a good teacher. Some other people think so too.”
I also thank the good people who put in a good word for me. Thank you to David Dawson from Colorado, the Audio Information Network of Colorado. He’s out-of-pocket right now with surgery, but I know he wishes he could be here. He told me that he kidded that he slipped Cathy $10 to get me this award. Kidding aside, I know he’s been a wonderful advocate for me, and also Annie Maxwell, longtime leader of the Center for the Visually Impaired in Atlanta. I’ve enjoyed working with her and also with her son Neal. Thank you to Anil Lewis, who has always been a fan of mine. From the day we met, Anil, I felt like, “okay I’m all right in your books.” You’ve been an encouragement to me. Thank you.
I just want to thank my students over the years, not by name, but those I’ve learned so much from. They’ve challenged me and they’ve delighted me. They’ve inspired me. Of course, sometimes they’ve annoyed me, but they’re kids, and that’s their job, right? I’d like to close with my favorite quote about education. When I’m speaking this afternoon at the NOPBC division meeting, I’ll be talking more about some of my favorite quotes. But this is my favorite one about education. It’s from a man named Robert Faun. I found it in a little book on the interplay of faith and education. He wrote, “We who are called to teach do so out of conviction that what we teach is important, those whom we teach are precious, and the reason why we teach reaches to the very core of our place and mission in the world.”
Thank you so much.
Blind Educator of the Year Award
by David Ticchi
Good morning, fellow Federationists. It is a pleasure to be chair of this committee and an honor. This morning I will first thank the members of this committee. I will tell you something about the award and its establishment. I will introduce this year’s winner, and then I will read the plaque and present the plaque and a check for $1,000 to the winner. The committee for the Blind Educator of the Year has me and four other members. They are William Henderson of Massachusetts, Sheila Koenig and Judy Sanders of Minnesota, and Ramona Walhof of Idaho. I have to say, President Maurer, it’s a wonderful committee to work with, so I want to thank all the members.
The Blind Educator of the Year Award was established by our National Organization of Blind Educators many, many years ago. The purpose of the award is to recognize a teacher whose classroom performance, whose community service, and whose commitment to the National Federation of the Blind have been exemplary. In 1991 it became a national award, because of the impact good teaching has on students, on faculty, on the community, and on all blind Americans. It is presented in the spirit of our founder, our leaders and educators who have nurtured our movement over the years: Dr. tenBroek, Dr. Jernigan, Dr. Maurer, and Dr. Capps. As an aside, President Maurer, when you mentioned this morning that Donald Capps has been to fifty-five conventions--maybe this is the educator in me, but think of that fact in this context: when any of us comes to convention, we’re here generally for the better part of a week. If that is true, that’s fifty-five weeks that Don Capps has attended conventions; that’s more than one year of his life that has been spent at NFB national conventions. [Applause]
So that is the award. I am not going to keep you in suspense. I’m going to tell you the name of this year’s winner, and I am going to ask the winner to make her way to the stage to receive the plaque and the check. This year’s winner of the Blind Educator of the Year Award embodies the spirit and purpose of this award. It is Ginger Lee-Held of Wisconsin. She attended the Wisconsin School for the Visually Impaired. She graduated from Parker High School in Janesville in 1988. In 1992 she received her bachelor’s degree in family and consumer sciences from the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, and in 2000 she received her master’s degree in educational leadership from the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh. She has taught family and consumer sciences at the Oshkosh Middle School from 1992 to the present. So that’s nearly twenty years in public education at the same school. I want to let you know, Ginger, and share with the Federationists here that I had a very nice conversation with your principal, Ann Schultz. Ann’s first word was “awesome.” Then she said, “Every principal, every administrator longs to have a faculty member like Ginger, and to have an entire faculty and school community like Ginger. She is an integral part of our school community. She is respected by her peers. She is respected by her students, and she is a contributor.” Those are words which administrators don’t generally say lightly. I share them with you because Ann Schultz was very complementary about Ginger and what she means to that middle school. Any of you who are parents or teachers know that middle school is not the easiest grade level to teach. There are a lot of changes going on in the kids. Ginger has been there seventeen years.
Ginger is married. Her husband Greg is here with us today. Her mother Donna is here with us today. She has an eight-year-old daughter, Rachel; and Ginger enjoys sewing, baking, gardening, reading, etc.; and I understand that she particularly enjoys baking cookies. Had I known that before the convention, I would have requested an emergency supply.
[Laughter] The award, which I am going to hold up for the audience, reads:
THE BLIND EDUCATOR OF THE YEAR
NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND
IN RECOGNITION OF OUTSTANDING ACCOMPLISHMENTS
IN THE TEACHING PROFESSION
YOU ENHANCE THE PRESENT,
YOU INSPIRE YOUR COLLEAGUES,
YOU BUILD THE FUTURE.
JULY 5, 2010
Congratulations, Ginger. [Applause.]
Ginger Lee-Held: Thank you so much for this honor. I have to say that this is the biggest--there is just not a word--the best honor that I could receive in my entire career. This is just the best. I want to tell you that in 1994, it was in Detroit and my first national convention, I read in the Braille Monitor when the agenda came out that the teachers division was having a meeting, and the topic was going to be dealing with attitudes and challenges presented by the public and within the school. I said to my husband, “I have to go to this.” So I booked my trip. I came here. I didn’t know anybody, and I wandered around and had a ton of fun, made many friends and acquaintances. I was totally overwhelmed, and I went to the meeting and sat next to Susanne Whalen, and I had to meet Allen Harris. Those two people in particular gave me the energy to go back to my school district.
However, I was supposed to fly out the next day, so I called my husband and said, “This is the coolest place. Do you think you could drive down here (thirteen hours) and see what this convention is like? It is so cool.” So he drove, and I skipped my plane. We stayed the rest of the week. I think we had to make a couple of room moves, but it was all worth it because I got to have the full impact of being a Federationist. That was the best experience. I remember it clearly. That is what the teachers division and all the different divisions do here at the convention. It’s meeting people and finding out about adaptations and how people deal with all kinds of challenges in the workplace. That was the best thing I ever did.
There are two things I think about when I work with my students--I have to say, if you’re a middle school teacher and stay in the job as long as I have, you begin to act like middle schoolers. When Mr. Ticchi called to tell me about this award, I first thought he was going to ask me for my contact information for the newsletter or something. He told me about this award, and all I could say was, “Oh my gosh. This is so cool. This is so cool. This is so exciting. This is so exciting.” After I hung up, I thought, “Oh my gosh, what kind of professional person are you?” So I had to email him and say, “Just so you know, I do have better grammar. This is such an honor.”
The highest praise you can receive when you teach middle school is, “This is cool.” So I have to say, receiving this honor and being confirmed and told that I am truly a Federationist along with all the people I admire here is really cool.
Imaginator of the Year Award
by Parnell Diggs
I am going to ask Kayleigh Joiner to join me here at the podium. I have Kayleigh here because I want to talk about her. I have a plaque here, which says:
THE NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND
THE IMAGINATOR OF THE YEAR AWARD
To KAYLEIGH JOINER
IN RECOGNITION OF YOUR OUTSTANDING WORK
IN THE 2010 RACE FOR INDEPENDENCE
YOUR DEDICATION TO OUR CAUSE
AND YOUR UNWAVERING COMMITMENT TO IMPROVING THE LIVES OF BLIND AMERICANS
DALLAS, TEXAS, 2010.
So Kayleigh, this is for you. [Applause] If you don’t know, Kayleigh is eighteen years old, and she was one of the medallion winners. Did you notice the list I read this morning? Kayleigh’s name was on it. She raised over $1,000, and she had fifteen contributors--at eighteen years of age. She was not afraid to make the ask. Kayleigh, would you like to say something?
Kayleigh Joiner: Thank you. It’s such an honor.
The Jacobus TenBroek Award
by Ramona Walhof
The highest award given by the National Federation of the Blind to one of our own is the Jacobus tenBroek Award, named for our founder. Created in 1974, this award has been presented twenty-six times to deserving Federationists from eighteen states. A review of the names of those who have received this award shows how diverse and strong our organization has become. I believe that Dr. tenBroek and others who have passed from among us celebrate along with us with joy and pride the growth of our leaders and our Federation itself. In 2007 I received the tenBroek Award, and nothing has ever given me more humility or more pleasure.
This year we have chosen a person from a new state, a person who has been hard at work in the organization for thirty-five years. Although one of our top leaders, this person has never served on the NFB board of directors. She has represented our national president at state meetings of the Federation, and she has represented the Federation internationally as chairperson of the committee on women’s issues. Yes, I am talking about you, Barbara Pierce. [Applause] Come on up here. This is not the first time we have honored an editor of the Braille Monitor. In 1976 the very first Jacobus tenBroek Award was presented to Perry Sundquist from California, who did in the seventies edit the Braille Monitor.
Although Barbara has retired from some of her activities in the National Federation of the Blind, she continues to contribute a great deal to our movement. She represents the Federation with poise, warmth, energy, dignity, and charm. Her writing and her speeches are familiar to all of us. We know this woman because she has shared herself with us. She has told us stories about her childhood. We know her husband Bob, the professor from Oberlin College. We have heard about her three grown children: Steven, Anne, and Margy, and her grandchildren, Miranda and Jack. And she has told us about her former employment as assistant alumni director at Oberlin College.
We have met her often in the Kernel Books. Wall-to-Wall Thanksgiving was named for her story in it, and it is a great example of her gutsiness and her personality.
Barbara gives credit where credit is due, but she is not afraid to report the facts, whatever they are. Many of you have heard of the way Barbara discovered the NFB. She says her husband was away on business while she stayed home with her three small children at the time, and she ran out of Talking Books, a problem we can all understand. Some of us remember a Federationist named Bill Kapler, who had stopped at Barbara’s home and left a stack of recordings, speeches from the National Federation of the Blind. Bill Kapler died recently, but I know that he was very proud that Barbara remembers him in this way. In desperation that week Barbara brought out these recordings. By the time her husband returned home, he found her so wound up and excited about what she had been reading that she was bursting to tell him about it. Almost immediately she began a correspondence with Dr. Jernigan and was soon invited to a leadership seminar. It was not long before we began to hear quotes from that correspondence in his speeches and Monitor articles by Dr. Jernigan.
By 1980 Barbara Pierce was appointed chairperson of the NFB committee on public relations. In 1984 she was first elected president of the NFB of Ohio, and she was reelected to that office eleven times, serving a total of twenty-four years. Barbara was appointed to serve on the NFB scholarship committee in the mid-1980s, and I cannot count the number of scholarship winners who remember meaningful discussions with her regarding blindness and their own futures in the Federation and in their professions.
Barbara has led delegations to the Washington Seminar for decades. She seldom missed a demonstration against the National Accreditation Council for Agencies Serving the Blind and Visually Handicapped. Yes, she was there representing the Braille Monitor, but she was more than a reporter. She was a tone-setter, a spokesman, and a leader at every one of those events.
Most people here have read the account Barbara Pierce wrote for the Braille Monitor last January as she retired from the editorship of our magazine. She described her growth in the Federation. Always a fair reporter, Barbara cares more than most. She cares about the people in most of the stories she writes and edits. We know that from what she says and from what she does as a leader in the Federation. We honor you with love tonight, Barbara. We honor you for your work and for your heart, not as a Federation employee, although you were an excellent one, but as a colleague and a friend to all of us, to hundreds of us as individuals, and to the organization as a whole.
We have for you a plaque, and I will give it to you to hold up. (The point goes at the bottom—well, it’s a good thing to have it right-side up.) It reads:
JACOBUS TENBROEK AWARD
NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND
FOR YOUR DEDICATION, SACRIFICE, AND COMMITMENT
ON BEHALF OF THE BLIND OF THIS NATION.
YOUR CONTRIBUTION IS MEASURED NOT IN STEPS BUT IN MILES.
NOT BY INDIVIDUAL EXPERIENCES BUT BY YOUR IMPACT
ON THE LIVES OF THE BLIND OF THE NATION.
WHENEVER WE HAVE ASKED, YOU HAVE ANSWERED.
WE CALL YOU OUR COLLEAGUE WITH RESPECT.
WE CALL YOU OUR FRIEND WITH LOVE.
JULY 8, 2010
Barbara Pierce: As I walked to the podium I was thinking that it was just over forty-three years ago that I received a letter from a blind college professor whom I had never heard of before. But it was a generous, loving, encouraging letter to me as a student just graduating from college. It would take another eight years and the discovery of the National Federation of the Blind before I would recognize that man’s name. It was Jacobus tenBroek.
As soon as I did become involved in the Federation--it was a love story, and as all love stories go, I discovered that the more I gave, the more I received, so that I have always been in your debt. I have done the best I could for all of us. I have loved every moment of my engagement with this organization. In the early years I sat in this audience and watched the people whom I most admired receive this award. As the years went by, I found that it was the people whom I knew and loved best who were receiving it. I cannot tell you what it feels like to be the one who is standing here receiving the award tonight. I have asked my husband to come up with me because part and parcel of my involvement in this organization has been Bob’s contribution to it, as well.In the early years he stayed home and babysat so I could go. When I became president of the Ohio affiliate, he listened, he counseled, he read innumerable letters, and he drove me all over the state of Ohio. But, when I became the editor of the Braille Monitor, he became the first proofreader of every word of every issue of this magazine. [Applause] Thank you for joining me in thanking him for his contribution to all of us and to our publication. I thank all of you, and I pledge to you that I will continue to serve as long as God gives me strength and intelligence to do so. Thank you.