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Presenters Pat Abrams, Ph. D


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Presenters

Pat Abrams, Ph.D.: Patricia Abrams serves as the Director of the Office of Special Education Instructional Services at the Virginia Department of Education. Her areas of expertise include learning disabilities, intellectual disabilities, and administration. She oversees special education leadership academies and the Department’s technical assistance and professional development centers. Dr. Abrams has worked at the state level for 24 years in several other areas including the provision of regulatory technical assistance and as the personnel development specialist. She completed her Bachelor and Master Degrees in education at the State University of New York and her Doctorate of Education degree in administration at Virginia Tech. Pat.Abrams@doe.virginia.gov
Jen Bensaid: Jen Bensaid is a Teacher of the Visually Impaired (TVI) for Fairfax County Public Schools and the Virginia Infant/Toddler Connection. Jen was a Special Education preschool teacher before becoming a TVI. jlbensaid@fcps.edu
Nathan Bullock: Nathan Bullock has been blind since birth due to a rare genetic disorder known as Norrie Disease. Norrie Disease can lead to additional symptoms such as autism, mental retardation, and hearing impairment. Despite his family being told by doctors that he would be a “vegetable for life,” Nathan graduated from the Virginia School for the Deaf and the Blind in June of 2011 with a grade point average of 3.2. Upon graduation he received numerous scholarships and an undergraduate award from the Lighthouse for the Blind. Nathan has been a Braille user ever since he can remember. Currently his major at Liberty University is Digital Media. nbullock4@liberty.edu
Melissa Caudill: Melissa Caudill is a Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor with the VA Department for the Blind and Vision Impaired in Roanoke. She has been there since 2013 and works primarily with transition age (14-24) youth. melissa.caudill@dbvi.virginia.gov
Wanda Council: Wanda Council has over 25 years of experience in public education. Prior to her current position at the VA Department of Education, Wanda provided leadership for Newport News Public Schools as the Special Education Program Supervisor for Speech/Language Impairment, Deaf/Hearing Impairment, Blind/Visual Impairment and Occupational/Physical Therapy. She also worked as an Instructional Specialist and Speech-Language Pathologist for the York County School Division. Wanda earned a B.S. degree in Special Education (Communicative Disorders) and a M.S. degree in Education (Speech Pathology/Audiology) from Old Dominion University, and an Education Specialist Degree in Administration from George Washington University. Wanda.Council@doe.virginia.gov
Brandon Cox: W. Brandon Cox is the Director of Rehabilitation Services and a Certified Orientation and Mobility Specialist with the Columbia Lighthouse for the Blind in Washington, D.C. Brandon has lead efforts to create innovative programs in Washington, D.C. and Maryland. These include an area wide O&M internship program, Foundations of Adjustment to Blindness (FAB) programs and expansion of services for clients who are Deaf-Blind and who have multiple disabilities. He also serves on the Board of Directors for the Maryland/DC AER Chapter. bcox@clb.org
Rebecca Davis: Rebecca (Becky) Davis earned her undergraduate degree in both Elementary Education and Special Education Vision Impairment at Kutztown University in Kutztown, PA. She recently completed her master’s degree in Early Childhood Special Education at John’s Hopkins University in Baltimore, MD. Becky taught for three years at the Maryland School for the Blind where she acquired a passion for teaching students with visual impairments and additional disabilities. While at the school for the blind, she assisted with coaching track and field (shotput) and wrestling. Becky is currently in her third year as a TVI in Fairfax County Public Schools. Outside of the school setting, Becky has worked with families, staff, and campers at the Helen L. Diller Vacation Home for the Blind in Avalon, NJ as both a counselor and an assistant administrator. Rbdavis@fcps.edu
Jennifer Duff: Jennifer Duff is a Certified Orientation and Mobility Specialist. She received her master’s degree from North Carolina Central University, graduating summa cum laude. Jennifer completed her internship at the Veterans Administration Blind Rehabilitation Center in West Haven, CT prior to beginning her first job as an orientation and mobility contractor with Invision Services in Eastern North Carolina. Jennifer has also worked as a specialist at Camp Abilities in Brockport, NY, supervising and teaching the athletic activities of beep baseball and gymnastics to youth with sensory impairments during the week long residential sports camp. In May 2013, Jennifer began working with the Virginia Department for the Blind and Vision Impaired in the Fairfax Regional Office. jennifer.duff@dbvi.virginia.gov
Andrea Dunn: Andrea Dunn earned her master’s degree in special education at George Mason University in Fairfax, VA. Prior to becoming a TVI with Fairfax County Public Schools, Andrea served as the Manager of Children and Family Programs at the Columbia Lighthouse for the Blind (CLB). At CLB, Andrea coordinated parent workshops, summer camp programs, teen support groups, and annual events for children with visual impairments from Maryland, D.C. and Virginia. Andrea serves on the Board of Directors of Camp Abilities Maryland and on the camp’s planning team since its founding in 2007. In the spring of 2013, Andrea was awarded the Barbara McCarthy Scholarship by the Virginia Chapter of AER. Andunn@fcps.edu
Julie Durando, Ph.D.: Julie Durando works at the Partnership for People with Disabilities (Virginia Commonwealth University) as the Project Director of the Virginia Project for Children and Young Adults with Deafblindness. She moved to Virginia from Florida, where she taught children with visual impairments, deaf-blindness and multiple disabilities for eight years. Julie’s research and writing focused on early Braille literacy experiences and instruction for children with sensory impairments and multiple disabilities. jdurando@vcu.edu
Johannah Echevarria: Johannah Echevarria received her master’s degrees in Orientation and Mobility in 1999 and in Rehabilitation Teaching in 2002 from Western Michigan University. She is a certified low vision therapist, vision rehabilitation therapist, and orientation and mobility specialist. Johannah.Echevarria@dbvi.virginia.gov
Betsy Flener, Ph.D.: Betsy Flener received her doctorate from Vanderbilt University in 1992 with a specialization in visual impairments and multiple disabilities. She has over 25 years of experience working with students who have visual impairments and also those with additional disabilities. She recently retired from her position as a regional consultant for the Kentucky School for the Blind. She is currently an assistive technology consultant at the Green River Regional Educational Cooperative in Kentucky. She has presented nationally on such topics as septo-optic dysplasia, technology, advocacy, self-determination, keyboarding skills, the iPad for students with multiple disabilities, Response to Intervention (RtI), and literacy for students with multiple disabilities. She recently completed 3 webinars focusing on the iPad for the American Foundation for the Blind. betsy.flener@grrec.ky.gov
Sherri Geiger: Sherri is a graduate of Mary Baldwin College and Virginia Commonwealth University. She has worked for the Virginia Department for the Blind and Vision Impaired and now works for the Veterans Administration as a Low Vision Therapist. sherri.geiger@va.gov
Cindy George: Cindy George has been in the field of assistive technology (AT) for 30 years. Experience includes classroom special education teacher, software/hardware developer and research associate, national AT consultant, AT assessment specialist, AT graduate and undergraduate faculty, and alternate media production coordinator for instructional materials through the AIM-VA project. She currently works at George Mason University in Fairfax, VA. cgeorge4@gmu.edu
David Hartman, M.D.: David Hartman is a psychiatrist who is visually impaired. He has worked in the Roanoke Valley for 31 years. He currently works at the Carilion Clinic evaluating and treating outpatients. In his role as an Associate Professor at the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine, Dr. Hartman participates in the teaching of medical school students and psychiatry residents. davidhartman4@cox.net
Debra Helms: Debra Helms is a retired Vision Rehabilitation Therapist, previously with the Department for the Blind and Vision Impaired. She is a Technology Tutor. Currently she serves as member-at-large on the VA AER Board. Debra has an undergraduate degree in Psychology and Special Education from James Madison University. She holds a Masters degree from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock in Rehabilitation of the Blind. She is on the Board of the Voice of the Blue Ridge, Inc. and has served as President for the last 7 years. ciberchip@cox.net
Maria “Conchita” Hernandez: Maria, known as Conchita, is a California native. As a civil rights advocate, she has taught inner city students and worked with and mentored at risk youth and Spanish speaking families. She holds a Bachelors degree from Saint Mary's College of California in International Studies and a Masters degree in teaching blind students from Louisiana Tech.  She also holds a certification in teaching Deaf-Blind students. Until recently, she worked in Nebraska as a Vocational Rehabilitation counselor for the Nebraska Commission for the Blind and Visually Impaired. She now lives in Washington, D.C. where she works for the D.C. public schools as a teacher of the blind. hernandezlegorreta@gmail.com
Gregory Hooks: As an Accessibility Technology Specialist, Greg Hooks has worked since 2008 with educators, professionals, students, and adult end users as a national representative for Integration Technologies Group (ITG). Before joining ITG, Greg was a self-employed trainer where his background in adaptive technologies further enhanced ITG’s ability to provide assistive technology solutions to their clients. Gregory.Hooks@itgonline.com
Melanie Hughes: Melanie Hughes is a Certified Orientation and Mobility Specialist working with the Virginia Department for the Blind and Vision Impaired out of the Fairfax office since 1996.  She graduated with an M.S. from the Pennsylvania College of Optometry (now Salus University).   Representing AER, she currently serves on the American National Standards Institute A117 Committee which develops accessibility standards for private property. n2organic@msn.com
Chuck Huss: Chuck Huss is a Certified Orientation and Mobility Specialist with 37 years of related work experience. He is nationally known for his work and expertise in the area of formalized bioptic driver training and assessment. Chuck has been an employee of the WV Division of Rehabilitation Services for the past 31 years. On July 20, 2012, AER bestowed upon him the Ambrose H. Shotwell Award for his years of direct service and advocacy efforts related to bioptic driving. chuck.P.huss@wv.gov
Cyndy Iskow: Cyndy Iskow is a Brain Injury Specialist and Teacher who has educated students of all ages with special needs for over 25 years. She currently works with Service Members and Veterans with visual and neurological or multiple impairments in Richmond, VA. She continues to teach children with vision/multiple impairments through Allied Instructional Services. cynthia.iskow@va.gov
Nikki Jeffords: Nikki Jeffords has been working as a Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor in the Norfolk Regional Office of the Department for the Blind & Vision Impaired for the past 5 years. She is a member of the Statewide Rehabilitation Council and the Bayside Special Services Library Advisory Board. Before coming to Virginia, Nikki worked as a Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor for the Arizona Rehabilitation Services Administration where she also chaired the Arizona Governor's Council on Blindness & Visual Impairment and sat on the Board of Directors of ABIL (The Arizona Bridge to Independent Living). Nikki earned a Masters degree in Rehabilitation Counseling from the University of Arizona and a post graduate certificate as a Vision Specialist in Vocational Rehabilitation from Mississippi State University. nicole.jeffords@dbvi.virginia.gov
Sara Jennings: Sara Jennings graduated from the Pennsylvania College of Optometry (now Salus University) in 2003 with a M.S. in Orientation & Mobility. She has worked in the field of mobility for 10 years with several state agencies and non-profits in NY, PA, and VA. Sara has been working at the Veterans hospital VISOR program for the past 5 years. Sara.Jennings@va.gov
Carol J. Jensen: Carol began her professional organizing business, Jensen Services LLC, in September 2004. She holds a B.S. degree in Special Education from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Her mission is to work closely with families of all ages and abilities to develop individualized and consistent plans to create more harmony in which to carry out their daily lives. jensen0804@gmail.com
Julie Kay: Julie Kay is an instructor for the Hadley School for the Blind. She teaches history, but LOVES geography and how it affects everyday life. In her session she hopes to inspire other professionals to understand Geography and to instill a love of travel into the lives of the people they serve. pjlkay2@aol.com
Marilee Kenlon: Marilee Kenlon received her B.S. in biology in 1967 and her M.A. in education, with an emphasis on Speech Pathology, in 1989. She received her M.A. in Vision Rehabilitation Therapy in 2008 and is a Certified Vision Rehabilitation Therapist (CVRT). Marilee has taught eighth grade science and math, worked as a speech therapist for the Department of Education on Guam, has taught Braille and cooking at the Virginia Rehabilitation Center for the Blind and Vision Impaired in Richmond, and is currently employed as a Vision Rehabilitation Therapist for the VA Department for the Blind and Vision Impaired in the Fairfax Regional Office. She is on the Board of Directors for the Disability Resource Center in Fredericksburg, VA and is the second vice president of the Chancellor Lions Club. She participates in most of the activities mentioned in her presentation. marilee.kenlon@dbvi.virginia.gov
Ana Khan: Ana Khan is the Braille transcriber for Services for Blind and Vision Impaired with Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) in Virginia. She has worked for FCPS for ten years as an office assistant, summer school instructional assistant, office lead clerk, and as a Head Start program family specialist (recruiting students). She learned some Cued Speech (Language for the Deaf) and began her journey as a Braille transcriber four and a half years ago. She has created hundreds of tactile materials using a variety of materials and has found QuickTac to be a life-saver! ackhan@fcps.edu
Paul Koons: Paul Koons graduated with a Masters in O&M from Pennsylvania College of Optometry in 1999.  He is a Certified Low Vision Therapist and Brain Injury Specialist.  Within the field of blindness and low vision, he has worked for private/non-profit agencies and state agencies. For the past 8 years, Paul has worked with Polytrauma Veterans Affairs assessing and training active duty and retired veterans who experience visual deficits as a result of traumatic brain injury.  Paul has published an article on case studies of veterans with brain injury and visual field loss.  paul.koons@va.gov 
Morina Lamb: Morina Lamb is a 1987 graduate of James Madison University. After serving in the United States Army and completing the Troops to Teachers program, she recognized her love of teaching. Morina spent 13 years as an Early Childhood Special Education teacher. She graduated from the George Mason University program and became a Teacher of the Visually Impaired. mlamb@harrisonburg.k12.va.us
Holly Lawson, Ph.D.: Holly Lawson is an Assistant Professor and Coordinator for the Virginia Consortium for Teacher Preparation in Vision Impairment at George Mason University. She has over 18 years of experience in the field and has worked with students with visual impairments in both residential and itinerant settings. She is Past-Chair of AER Division 7, Low Vision Rehabilitation. hlawson2@gmu.edu

Jamie Maffit: Jamie Maffit is an Assistant Professor and Coordinator of the Graduate Programs in Orientation and Mobility (O&M) for the Blind and Visually Impaired at Salus University.  She is a Certified Orientation and Mobility Specialist who has worked with both adults and children in the Philadelphia Metro region. Jamie has a distinct focus on wellness opportunities for individuals with visual impairments, including integrating yoga into a comprehensive O&M instructional plan for improved independent travel, health and relaxation. jmaffit@salus.edu
Mallery Mayo, Ph.D.: Mallery Mayo holds a Doctorate in Neuroscience from Baylor University as well as Masters’ degrees in Education and Clinical Psychology. She has worked in pharmaceutical and device Medical & Scientific Affairs for nearly 15 years. Prior to her time in industry, she was on the faculty at Baylor where she taught and conducted research in Clinical Neuroscience. She currently works in Medical Affairs at Vanda Pharmaceuticals. Her role there includes supporting local patient and professional organizations, research initiatives, and acting as a scientific resource for health care providers and managed care organizations. Mallery.mayo@vandapharma.com
Suzanne McClung: Suzanne McClung is a Vision Rehabilitation Therapist with the Virginia Department for the Blind (DBVI) in Roanoke, VA. She has been with DBVI since 2011. Suzanne.McClung@dbvi.virginia.gov
Mark Melonson: Mark Melonson is a security consultant and martial artist from Houston, TX. He is the U.S. Southern Regional Director for the 1Touch Project, a unique organization dedicated to the development and distribution of practical and effective self-defense training for individuals who are blind, visually impaired, or multi-disabled. mark@1touchproject.com
Ian Moore: Ian Moore recently moved from Rochester, NY to join the AIM-VA team.  He studied history and education at the University of Buffalo and then received his M.S. Ed. Degree from Nazareth College in Rochester. Prior to coming to George Mason University, he worked at a 12:1:1 school in Rochester that specialized in students with autism, dyslexia, and ADHD. imoore7@gmu.edu

Kristine S. Neuber, Ph.D.: Kristine Neuber is a faculty member at George Mason University (GMU) and teaches courses in the Assistive Technology Master’s and Certificate Programs including one titled “Assistive Technology for Individuals with Sensory Impairments.” She has been at GMU for more than 15 years in a variety of positions in the area of Assistive Technology. Prior to working at GMU, she was an itinerant teacher for students with visual impairments in Virginia. kneuber@gmu.edu

Michael Peterson, O.D.: Dr. Peterson grew up in Michigan and attended the New England College of Optometry in Boston. His low vision residency was completed at the Eastern Blind Rehabilitation Center in West Haven, CT. Dr. Peterson was in private practice in Detroit for 8 years. He is currently doing a brain injury/visual-rehabilitation fellowship in Tampa, FL. Presently, he will be joining the Hunter Holmes McGuire Veterans Administration Medical Center in Richmond, VA in the position of Traumatic Brain Injury/Low Vision Optometrist. Peterson.mi@gmail.com
Gillian Pilcher: Gillian Pilcher is a Teacher of the Visually Impaired (TVI) for Fairfax County Public Schools in Virginia. Gillian was a special education teacher for students with multiple disabilities before becoming a TVI. She earned National Board Certification in 2005. gepilcher@fcps.edu
Suzanne M. Proctor: Suzanne Proctor earned her bachelor’s degree in psychology from the Gardner-Webb University in North Carolina in 1999. She has been a pre-school teacher for the deaf and multi-disabled. She is currently a TVI with Prince William County Public Schools in Virginia. ProctoSM@pwcs.edu
Sue Ribyat: Sue Ribyat has over 25 years of experience as a Teacher of the Visually Impaired and is currently the Lead Teacher for Services for Blind and Vision Impaired in Fairfax County Public Schools in Virginia. Sue is a graduate of Boston College with a dual certification in VI and O&M and holds an endorsement in Administration and Supervision from the University of Virginia. slribyat@fcps.edu
Rachel Schles: Rachel Schles earned her undergraduate degree at Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, NY and completed her Masters degree in visual disabilities special education at Peabody College at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, TN. She was the recipient of the Student Teacher of Excellence Award from Peabody College (2012), and nominated for Outstanding First Year Teacher with Fairfax County Public Schools (2013). Rachel currently serves as Chair-Elect for AER Division 10, Education Curriculum. Raschles@fcps.edu
Peggy Sinclair-Morris: Peggy Sinclair-Morris has been the Project Coordinator with the Virginia Project for Children and Young Adults with Deaf-Blindness since 2008. Over the past 25 years, she has worked as a teacher of the visually impaired and orientation and mobility specialist in Chesterfield County (Virginia), New Mexico, Indiana and Texas. After teaching O&M to adults with blindness and deaf-blindness right out of college, Peggy pursued her M.A. degree in Deaf Education at Gallaudet University. psinclairmor@vcu.edu
Martie Slaughter: Martie Slaughter is a Registered Dietitian and Diabetes Educator with over 30 years of experience. She recently retired as a Navy Captain after 26 years in the Medical Service Corps. Her last assignment was head of Clinical Nutrition and Co-facilitator for the National Naval Medical Center Diabetes Management Program in Bethesda, MD. She is a graduate of the Naval War College, Baylor University and Virginia Tech and has her undergraduate degree from Penn State. mmslaughter@carilionclinic.org
Rhonda Teets: rsteets@carilionclinic.org
Mike Tindell: As the Blindness Product Specialist, Mike Tindell has worked with education and rehab professionals, as well as student and adult end users, representing HumanWare for the past ten years. Prior to joining HumanWare, Mike worked with the National Federation of the Blind and Freedom Scientific. As a user of adaptive technologies, his extensive background in the industry has served him well at HumanWare, where he provides training and support on blindness products. mike.tindell@humanware.com
Carlton Anne Cook Walker: Carlton Anne Cook Walker earned her M.Ed. in Visual and Multiple Disabilities from Salus University. She is in her fifth year as a Teacher of Students with Blindness/Visual Impairment in Cumberland and York Counties in Pennsylvania. She has her National Certification in Literary Braille. In addition, Carlton Anne is an attorney in a solo private practice which focuses on municipal law. She also serves as President of the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children and as a board member on the Pennsylvania Advisory Committee for the Blind of Pennsylvania. ccook-walker@mbgsd.org
Carol Young: Carol Young has over 40 years of experience working with horses. She owned her first horse at age four and has bred and trained horses that have been awarded highest honors in a variety of disciplines. Carol has shown horses in back yard local shows as well as at Devon. As an entrepreneur for over 25 years, she has gained working knowledge as a business leader. Carol is the owner of Healing Strides of Virginia. info@healingstridesofva.org

Bio’s for Keynotes and special guests:
Kimberly Coleman: Kim Coleman has served as an itinerant Teacher of the Vision Impaired with Chesapeake Public Schools since 2000. In seeking to meet her student’s needs, she has pursued Active Learning training opportunities with Dr. Lilli Nielsen, and intervener training for children with dual sensory-loss sponsored by the Project for Children and Youth with DeafBlindness. She holds additional certifications in Gifted, Pre-School, Intellectually Delayed, and General Education. Kim completed her Bachelor’s degree at SUNY Brockport with education studies in England. She completed her Master’s degree at Syracuse University.
When the Virginia AER Chapter reconstituted in 2007, Kim served as the first secretary helping to establish a mission statement and working with a graphic artist to create our Logo. As Chapter President, Kim continues to look for ways to get people involved and invested in AER.

Raymond Hopkins: Ray Hopkins was appointed as Commissioner of the Virginia Department for the Blind and Vision Impaired (DBVI) in 2008 and was re-appointed in 2010 by Governor McDonnell. From 2004-2008, Ray was employed by the U.S. Department of Education, Rehabilitation Services Administration where he oversaw the Randolph-Sheppard Vending Facility Program, an entrepreneurial program serving persons who are blind. He also served as the Administrator of the Division of Visual Services, Oklahoma Department of Rehabilitation Services for 10 years. A native Oklahoman, Ray has an undergraduate degree from the University of Oklahoma and a Master's in Rehabilitation of the Blind from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. He has served on the Board of Directors of several professional organizations including the National Council of State Agencies for the Blind (NCSAB), the Academy for Certification of Vision Rehabilitation and Education Professionals (ACVREP), the Oklahoma Association for the Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Vision Impaired and the Blind Entrepreneurs Alliance.


Rick Mitchell, Ph.D.: Rick Mitchell received both his B.S. in Broadcast Management and Psychology and his M.A. in Counseling from Liberty University in Lynchburg, VA. His Doctorate in Counseling was from Bethany Theological Seminary and his Doctor of Ministry from Andersonville Theological Seminary. He is a certified rehabilitation counselor, a licensed temperament and pastoral counselor and an ordained minister.
Rick has 28 years of experience with the Virginia Department for the Blind and Vision Impaired (DBVI) as a Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor, Regional Manager and now as the Deputy Commissioner for Services. In addition to his work for DBVI, he has a counseling practice called Family Pathways where he provides individual and family counseling. Rick has conducted numerous conferences throughout Tennessee, North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, and the Caribbean. Conference topics have dealt with marriage, parenting, overcoming hurtful experiences, stress management, and team building.




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