National Federation of the Blind Celebrates Teachers of Tomorrow

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National Federation of the Blind Celebrates Teachers of Tomorrow

Second Cohort of Innovative Program Kicked off at NFB Jernigan Institute in Baltimore

Baltimore, Maryland (November 9, 2022): The National Federation of the Blind (NFB) is proud to announce the members of the second cohort of the NFB Teachers of Tomorrow Program. The goal of the program is to help teachers of blind students gain a real connection to the lived experiences of blind people through the National Federation of the Blind, the transformative membership and advocacy organization of blind Americans, and to help them recognize the incredible value that blind mentors provide for these teachers and for their students. The program is free to participants thanks to a partnership between the National Federation of the Blind and the Gustavus and Louise Pfeiffer Research Foundation. Over the next several months, the teachers will engage in virtual and in-person activities focused on subjects including the tools and techniques used by blind people in everyday life, the best strategies for teaching Braille, and how to help blind students succeed in STEM-related subjects. A detailed account of the activities of the first cohort, including testimonials from the teachers themselves, is available in this blog post. The most recent episode of the Nation’s Blind Podcast also explores the program.

“Every day we raise the expectations of blind people, because it is low expectations that create obstacles between blind people and our dreams,” said Mark Riccobono, President of the National Federation of the Blind. “This program is helping teachers of blind students to raise expectations and connecting them and their students with a network of blind people who can provide mentorship and support. We look forward to collaborating with this new cohort of teachers and to seeing the positive impact they will have on blind children and youth, their families, and the education system.”    

Meet the members of the new Teachers of Tomorrow cohort:
Name: Deborah Aviles
State: New York 
Education: I attended Hunter College, where I obtained my degrees in teaching people who are visually impaired and in orientation and mobility. 
Interesting Fact: I’m adventurous and a resilient person who applies it to everything I do in my world. Also, I love to be healthy and workout. 

Name: Jill E. Bookwalter
State: Colorado
Education: University of Northern Colorado
Interesting Fact: I am a twin 

Name: Catherine Brands
State: New York
Education: I earned my Masters from the University of Kentucky, Lexington in 2021.
Interesting Fact: I’m pretty sure I could eat sushi every day. 

Name: Lilley Tomas Fitzgerald
State: Virginia
Education: George Mason University
Interesting Fact: I love to travel, but have not traveled outside of the country yet. My most coveted place to visit is Ireland! 

Name: Krisztina Gruebele
State: Utah
Education: University of Utah
Interesting Fact: I'm from Budapest, Hungary.

Name: Chasity Desiree Gillespie
State: West Virginia
Education: Marshall University- Vision studies; Saulus University-Orientation and Mobility 
Interesting Fact: In my free time, I travel via pet sitting. I recently returned from a three-week pet sit near Anna Maria Island.

Name: Wendy Harris 
State: Minnesota
Education: Salus University
Interesting fact: I played solo handbells as a teenager.

Name: Justyn Philip Keller
State: Florida
Education: None in this field. I am a person with a visual impairment and retinal disease myself, who went to a residential school for the blind. I went to college down a different career path, until I felt this tug to give back to the blind/VI community. Certified in K-12 Visual Impairment.
Interesting Fact: Yes, my last name sounds familiar, as I am a distant relative (genealogy research done) of Helen Keller. I am also an avid woodworker.

Name: Amy Wolf Kaufman
State: Minnesota
Education: University of Nebraska- Lincoln. 
Interesting Fact: I love canoeing with my family.

Name: Rachael Lang
State: Massachusetts 
Education: Salus University 
Interesting fact: I enjoy kayaking whenever the opportunity arises.

Name: Jodi Lynn Nicholson
State: Virginia
Education: George Mason University
Interesting Fact: I love poetry, particularly war poetry. 

Name: Gabrielle A. Popp
State: Michigan
Education: Western Michigan University 
Interesting Fact: I worked at a Disney English school in China for a summer. I taught 4-6 year old children in Hangzhou, China using a Disney curriculum. I found the job via Craigslist and am still amazed that it wasn't a scam! 

Name: Alicia M. Roberts
State: Florida
Education: Florida State University
Interesting Fact: I adopted a cat with a visual impairment 8 years ago, which funnily enough foreshadowed my career as a Teacher of the Visually Impaired!

Name: Kelsey Rodriguez. 
State: North Carolina
Education: Kutztown University in 2012, and I am currently working towards my master’s degree in Orientation and Mobility at Salus University. 
Interesting Fact: I enjoy crocheting and listening to film scores in my free time. 

Name: Angela Schmidt 
State: I live in Ohio, but I teach in Kentucky. 
Education: University of Kentucky 
Interesting Fact: I am a huge Cincinnati Bengals fan; on Sundays, you will always find me watching the game! Who Dey!

Name: Liz Southern
State: California
Education: California State University, Los Angeles
Interesting Fact: I went back to school after 16 years and am now enrolled in a dual TVI/O&M and Master's program.

Name: Kelsie Stegall
State: Arizona
Education: Arizona State University
Interesting Fact: I have run a marathon!

Name: Kendra Skye Thiel
State: Oklahoma
Education: I attended Southwestern Oklahoma State University to obtain my B.S. in Special Education. I attended the Oklahoma VI Teacher Institute through the Oklahoma School for the Blind to obtain my certification in Blindness/Visual Impairments.
Interesting Fact: My husband proposed to me on the Eiffel Tower.

Name: Vicki Wong
State: New York
Education: City University of New York, Hunter College
Interesting Fact: Was married in Iceland this past August.

Name: Brandy Lynn Widzbor 
State: I live and work as a Teacher of the Visually Impaired in Baltimore, Maryland. 
Education: Kutztown University 
Interesting Fact: I am looking forward to celebrating my 20-year anniversary of marriage and teaching with a cruise to Alaska this summer with my family. 

Chris Danielsen
Director of Public Relations
National Federation of the Blind
410-659-9314, extension 2330
410-262-1281 (cell)