Braille Monitor                                                    August/September 2009

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Awards Presented at the
2009 Convention of the National Federation of the Blind

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, 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 and the tenBroek Award:

Blind Educator of the Year Award
by David Ticchi

Thank you, Dr. Maurer. Good morning, everyone. It is indeed a pleasure and a privilege to chair this committee. I first want to tell you about the award. I will then announce the winner of this year’s award and make the presentation. Then the winner will have an opportunity to share thoughts with you and speak to the gathering this morning. Before doing that, I want to thank the members of the committee: Sheila Koenig and Judy Sanders of Minnesota, Ramona Walhof of Idaho, and Adelmo Vigil of New Mexico. Thank you very much.

The Blind Educator of the Year Award was instituted by the National Organization of Blind Educators, NOBE. It was established to pay tribute to an outstanding teacher for excellent classroom performance, uncommon community service, and outstanding commitment to the Federation. Because of the importance of classroom teaching and education and the impact they have on students, on faculty, on the community, and in fact on all Americans, in 1991 this became a national award that is presented in the spirit of our founders, themselves educators who nurtured our movement, leaders such as Dr. tenBroek, Dr. Jernigan, and now President Maurer. The award will have a plaque with it and also a check for $1,000.
Without further ado I want to tell you about this year’s winner. The winner of this award is a gentleman named William Henderson, who is the principal of the O’Hearn Elementary School in Boston, Massachusetts. I want to ask Bill Henderson to come forward, and I want to tell you something about this impressive gentleman. Bill has his doctorate in instructional leadership from the University of Massachusetts, his master’s in community development from Gordon College, and an undergraduate degree from Yale University in Latin American studies. His professional experience is over thirty-six years in the Boston public schools, where he began as a middle school teacher at the McCormick School, became a staff trainer, and in 1981 became assistant principal at Hernandez Elementary School, and then from 1989 to the present has been the principal of the O’Hearn school.

His professional experience is outstanding. He has conducted seminars at colleges and universities, including the Harvard School of Education, Roxbury Community College, and numerous other colleges and universities. He has consulted with school systems and has written articles, and I am proud to say he is a committed member of our Cambridge Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind and the NFB of Massachusetts, as well as helping out with seminars we have had for parents of blind children over the years.

Bill has received numerous awards over the years. Just to give you a sense, through the Department of Health and Human Services he received the Outstanding American Award. He has received the Community Hero Award from the Boston Celtics and has been the Milken Outstanding Educator of the Year. He has also received outstanding achievement awards from the Federation for Children with Special Needs. He has been on national TV with Katie Couric and in Time magazine—numerous, numerous awards. What distinguishes this school—and this really gets into the nature of the presentation I want to make—is that The O’Hearn school has been recognized for its inclusiveness. Bill has set the bar higher—expectations. He is a champion of inclusion. He recognizes the benefits of having a school that exhibits high standards and has expectations for students and welcomes all. It raises the comfort level. It increases respect for human differences. It maximizes opportunities, and it minimizes disabilities. The O’Hearn school has been recognized for that in the city of Boston, in the state of Massachusetts, and nationally.

I want to tell you something else. Those of you who know me well know that I am well organized, and I do things in advance. I had my notes for this presentation and on Bill’s background all researched and ready in Braille. Then on Sunday, June 21, Father’s Day, I had to change this a little bit. I got a call in the afternoon from Bill, and he said, “David, I just want to give you a heads up. This was supposed to be a secret, but I’ve gotten wind of it, and I’d like you to be present when it happens.” On Tuesday, June 23, the city of Boston, the Boston school committee, and the O’Hearn School decided to rename the school after Bill Henderson. It is now the William Henderson Inclusive Elementary School. [applause]

I was proud to attend that ceremony. It was very moving. I must tell you, to have every grade level represented, poems written and songs sung—all this spoke to the inclusiveness of the school, the community feeling, and the love that people have for this man. How rare is it—how extraordinarily rare—that a building or facility or institution is named after a person who is still living? What a tribute!

Bill, congratulations on the National Blind Educator of the Year Award. I’d like to read to people what this award says, then I will present you with the award and the check.

The Blind Educator of the Year
Presented to
Bill Henderson

In recognition of outstanding
Accomplishments in the teaching profession.

You enhance the present,
You inspire your colleagues,
You build the future.
July 5, 2009

Bill, congratulations. [applause]

Thank you. David, thank you very much for those wonderful words, and thank you, NFB leaders, for this tremendous honor. When I started as a middle school teacher in the Boston public schools in the 1970s, I also started to lose my vision. I went for some advice. The first person I saw was a retina specialist. He suggested that I get out of education. The next person I saw was an assistant superintendant, and he told me not to worry because I qualified for disability retirement. These highly skilled professionals were obviously not that enlightened. I clearly recognized the importance of this organization and its leaders, past and present, creating opportunities for blind folks and for creating and changing people’s images and perceptions about what we can do. I have benefitted tremendously from this organization and from your leadership.

There are so many people, past and present, I could acknowledge. I do want to say here that David Ticchi was the trailblazer. He was the Jackie Robinson. He was the first teacher to be blind in Massachusetts, and, David, your doing an excellent job has made it easier for many of us.

I also want to recognize the current president of the Massachusetts affiliate of the NFB, Mika Pyyhkala, who, when I was going through the transition from sighted to blind, helped me learn some new blind skills and encouraged me to connect with others to become better prepared. And Dr. Maurer, you might not know it, but you’ve inspired me for many years with your speeches and your tenacity. Just recently you spoke to us in Massachusetts at our state convention, and you shared a message in which you asked all of us, not only to participate and to contribute, but also to be joyful. That message is something that I think is part of the philosophy at the O’Hearn Inclusive School. We want all of our students from diverse ethnic, linguistic, and ability backgrounds—whether they see or not, whether they use wheelchairs or not, whether they have autism or not—we want all of our children to participate in rigorous academic classes, to participate in rich arts experiences and extracurricular activities. We want all of our children to learn and figure out how they can best contribute, starting out in their homes and in their schools. But ultimately the goal of education is to contribute in our communities and contribute in the greater world.

We also want all of our children to be successful and to be joyful. That’s critical and very important for us. In this organization we talk about changing the attitudes of blind folks, and, because we are an inclusive school, our students see folks with a wide range of abilities all the time. In fact I had the advantage while I was at work of learning Braille. Once a month the Massachusetts Commission for the Blind used to send somebody out at four o’clock, the end of the school day, to help me with my Braille skills. This one simple story will illustrate how perceptions of blind people are changing. A young man was coming to our school and using the white cane. He would come into our school at the end of the day when most of the students had gone home, but some were still there. What do you think that students at an inclusive school who were used to a blind principal asked this young man who came into our school with a cane? Were they like that eye specialist saying, “You need to get out of education”? Were they like the educational administrator saying, “Disability retirement”? No. The question that young people have now who have the opportunity to meet, work with, and collaborate with blind people, asked him this question, “Sir, in what school are you principal?”

Thank you for creating opportunities. Thank you for this award. Keep shining. [applause]

Distinguished Educator of Blind Children Award
by Joyce Scanlan

The committee appointed to select the Distinguished Educator of Blind Children for 2009 has indeed chosen a most deserving person as the recipient of the award. As you know, the National Federation of the Blind recognizes outstanding educators of blind children who exemplify the very best qualities in addressing the specific needs related to blindness: a profound belief in the capacities of blind children to lead full and meaningful lives, the understanding of the value of teaching Braille reading and writing, the use of the long white cane for travel, and appropriate technology and a firm conviction that blind children must be prepared to achieve their personal goals and realize their individual dreams as much as their sighted colleagues.

Annee HartzellI am pleased to tell you that the committee has identified as this year’s winner one who demonstrates the finest qualities in all of the areas we desire. She is Annee Hartzell. [applause] She is from Walla Walla, Washington. She is our Distinguished Educator of Blind Children for 2009. Let me tell you about her. Annee Hartzell has outstanding professional qualifications for the field she is pursuing. Her academic credentials tell of a well-rounded background. She earned a bachelor’s degree in 1992 with concentration in politics and Japanese. In 1995 she received a law degree from the University of Washington School of Law. In 2002 she earned an MS degree in special education with concentrations in severe needs, vision orientation, and mobility from the University of Northern Colorado. She has several relevant professional certificates, among them, from the Academy for Certification of Vision Rehabilitation and Education Professionals, Orientation and Mobility Certificate. She has excellent teaching skills. She is fluent in Spanish and is proficient in using assistive technology and in instructing the technology, including notetakers, Braille displays, OCR software, and appropriate Microsoft applications. I can tell you I am truly impressed, Annee.

She is very competent to teach Braille in both literary and Nemeth codes. She says she has a functional understanding of the Japanese language and the Braille system. She studied the language for four years in college, including one year at Yoshida University in Kyoto, Japan. While I have been telling of Annee’s professional and academic qualifications primarily, I want you to know that all these fine certifications and degrees maybe impressive; however, the real reason we feel that Annee is an outstanding teacher and deserving of our award is that she practices in her daily professional work the high expectations and positive philosophy of our organization because she is a member of the National Federation of the Blind. Her professional practices are based upon personal experience. It has been demonstrated to her that students thrive best on a positive philosophy of blindness and the best alternative techniques when your eyesight doesn’t quite make it.

Annee has received a number of honors and awards. She has received scholarships from her state affiliate and also from the National Federation of the Blind. She has now had nine years of teaching experience in California and in Washington. She receives high praise from her principal, under whom she has taught for the past five years, and a glowing recommendation from a very pleased parent of one of her students. That tells us much about how she is valued by those who know her and work with her. She also has contributed ably to programs of the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children at national conventions.

As the winner of the Distinguished Educator of Blind Children Award, Annee receives transportation to this convention, the opportunity to speak at and participate in seminars and other significant events of the NOPBC, a check for $1,000, and a beautiful plaque, which I will present to you, Annee, so you can hold it up while I read the inscription on the plaque. It reads:




JULY 2009

Congratulations to you, Annee Hartzell, and we are very proud of you and are pleased to have you as our Distinguished Educator of Blind Children for this year. Now, before we hear from Annee, I would like to thank the members of the Distinguished Educator of Blind Children Award committee who made our work go smoothly and worked together as a fine team. They are Mark Riccobono of Maryland, Dr. Ed Vaughn of California, Carla McQuillan of Oregon, and Allen Harris now of Alabama. Thanks to all of you members of the committee.

Now let me present to you Annee Hartzell, our Distinguished Educator of Blind Children for 2009.

Good morning, fellow Federationists, board members, committee members. I just would like to thank you very much for raising me up in the Federation. I came to the Federation twenty-one years ago this week as a result of the National Federation of the Blind scholarship program. I came to Chicago as a result of the scholarship program. I thank Denise and Gary Mackinstadt for believing in me and writing such a glowing recommendation. I also would like to thank two people who aren’t with us today, my parents. Without my parents, who believed in me, who raised me, who expected so much of me--they expected that I would accomplish and achieve and do the same things as my twin brother and younger sister--without their belief I wouldn’t be standing here. And without the belief of the Federation, without that gift, I wouldn’t be standing here. It is my life purpose to reach out to the children I serve, that I can give that gift to them. So I hope that I can continue to just keep giving that gift to my kids. [applause]

I understand that a check goes along with this award that you guys are so generously giving me this year. I am intending to invest this gift in a knfb Reader, which is here. Mr. Gashel is here. He came to our area in eastern Washington, and we are starting a pilot program. We are going to take the knfb Reader to our little eastern Washington program and spread the gift of the knfb Reader to the K-12 system and find out what it can do for kids. We will report back.

The Jacobus tenBroek Award
by Ramona Walhof

The Jacobus tenBroek Award was first presented in 1976 to Perry Sunquist of California. It was presented twice more in that decade, and during the 1980s it was presented six times. In the nineties seven times. In the twenty-first century we have recognized an outstanding leader of the National Federation of the Blind each year, and the award has become a symbol that our leadership has now become both deep and diverse.

A study of the leaders we have chosen to honor with this award named for our founder, Jacobus tenBroek, demonstrates that our organization is healthy and strong. Those we recognize served, not for years, but for decades, not in one state, but in ways that benefit the blind of the entire nation.

In 2007 my colleagues chose to honor me with the award, and I have never been more humbled standing alongside some of our best leaders. Tonight we are presenting the Jacobus tenBroek Award to two people who have served separately and together and are known to all of you. They have lived and served in four NFB affiliates and in one large division. They joined the NFB in the 1970s, and I have been around long enough to have met them both in that decade. As they moved around, they grew in the Federation themselves and became builders and leaders. They have been leaders for more than twenty-five years. Only once before have we chosen to honor a sighted person with this award. That was Mary Ellen Jernigan, but tonight the Jacobus tenBroek Award goes to (you have figured it out, I think.) Barbara and John Cheadle. [applause]

Barbara and John Cheadle receive the tenBroek Award.John and Barbara joined the NFB before they were married, when they lived in the state of Nebraska and both worked for the rehabilitation agency for the blind there. After they were married and after the birth of their first son, they decided to adopt a blind child, now known to us as Charles Cheadle. In the early 1980s they moved to Missouri, where John worked with the rehabilitation agency and Barbara began to edit a newsletter for parents of blind children. Next they moved to Idaho, where both were extremely helpful to me and the NFB when we were under attack there. Barbara Cheadle was elected president of the parents of blind children division for the first time while they lived in Idaho. But in 1985 it was time for them to move on again, this time to Maryland, where John Cheadle has worked ever since as executive director of buildings and facilities at our national headquarters. In this capacity he does not receive a lot of recognition, but he is valued for constant and wise leadership, and his work makes us proud of our national headquarters. Constructing a large new commercial building is a huge undertaking, and John Cheadle worked as an essential part of the leadership team to bring the beautiful facility for our Jernigan Institute into being. He continues to supervise both the maintenance staff and contractors who are hired to do repairs and remodeling at our national headquarters.

After the Cheadles moved to Maryland, Barbara was reelected president of the parents of blind children division every two years until she had served for twenty-five years. She continued to build the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children all that time. Our publication, Future Reflections, was edited by Barbara Cheadle from its very beginning. As leader of the parents division she traveled throughout the country. She planned seminars and meetings at our national convention and elsewhere throughout the country. She organized state divisions of parents of blind children. She attended other conferences on parenthood and education as needed. She wrote and read widely in the field, and she headed the Braille book program for the American Action Fund for Blind Children and Adults, which makes it possible for blind children to receive their very own Braille books as they grow up.

In short, she became deservedly the best known leader among parents of blind children throughout this country. After twenty-five years she decided to retire as president of NOPBC, and last summer the division celebrated its silver anniversary. Barbara retired as editor of Future Reflections this spring. There are and will be ripples in the waters of the division as transition occurs, but it is strong, and there are many leaders ready to move forward to take new positions, men and women recruited and groomed in the philosophy and experience in the Federation by Barbara Cheadle. There are also blind children and youth who have grown up and others who are now growing up in the Federation in a better world for blind people because of the work of Barbara Cheadle.

This year Barbara Cheadle is back with us at the convention, still working as a part of the NFB, and she always will be. Barbara and John have been far more than staff members at our national center; they have given of themselves, learned and grown in their work, shared what they have learned with others, and helped to train the next generation of parents, yes, and of blind children. Many of these children are now Federationists, as are their parents. We find them in the student division as scholarship winners and in chapters and state affiliates across the NFB.

The Cheadles have raised three children of their own, John Earl, now in Cincinnati; Charles, who has joined the Peace Corps; and Anna, who lives in England. These young adults like the blind children who have grown up in the Federation are testimony to the wisdom and strength of John and Barbara Cheadle. I say to you tonight, John and Barbara, we give you this Jacobus tenBroek Award as a sign of our love and appreciation for what you are and what you do. Congratulations to both of you. We have a plaque for you. Here is the text:

JULY 8, 2009

John: I’m overwhelmed. I was trying to think earlier tonight how long I’ve been coming to these conventions, and Fred said they’ve been coming thirty-one years, and I think this is our thirty-fifth convention. [applause] We want to thank all of you for everything you have done for us. You have done more for us than we’ve done for you. When we first got into the field, we didn’t know about the Federation. We had to go off to these meetings in Kansas City for rehab regional meetings. We knew there was something better, someplace, there had to be. And here you are. Thank you.

Barbara: I was out to lunch with a couple of my wonderful friends and parents in the parents division today, and we were talking about this interesting hotel. Brad said he had heard that the architect who designed it wanted there to be a surprise around every corner. Believe me, I will remember this as the convention of surprises. I’ve been asked many things this week, and some people ask me if I feel lost or uncertain or sad about not having the position of parent division president or that I’m not sure what to do, and I’m not. I am so very happy. Part of what I am happy about is the wonderful leaders and the parents who are involved and the children. The greatest joy that I could have is that they are such wonderful people: Carol Castellano and that wonderful board who can take over so competently, so efficiently, and Debbie Stein to take on Future Reflections. It’s a source of great joy to me. I think the greatest sadness would be if everything started falling apart, because what would have been the point of all that work? Most of all, I am happy because this is my family. You are my friends, and I love you. Thank you.

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