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“It has come to my attention that there is an increasing amount of information that I know nothing about!” This is a mantra that NDVS/SB Regional Coordinator Lanna Slaby has held for some time, according to her friend and former colleague Linda Kraft. “It’s a very true statement in the world of visual impairments and education of the visually impaired,” Linda explained, and it fits Lanna’s personality perfectly. “When a new client comes to NDVS/SB, there is much to learn about the individual and their unique set of circumstances. Lanna is always willing to put in the time, learning all she needs to know, to customize a program for her clients that is perfectly suited just for them. NDVS/SB is lucky to have her, and I am so proud to call her my friend!” 

Linda is just one of the many people Lanna has touched during her years as an educator, first in public elementary schools, and then at NDVS/SB as a TVI. Both Regional Coordinators, Linda and Lanna even shared an office for a while, which turned out to be life-changing for both. “I didn’t just get an office mate and co-worker, but also a wonderful friend, mentor, and confidant,” Linda shared. “We did so much learning together.” Lanna, who has positively affected so many students and colleagues over the years, says that her inspiration simply comes from others. “I’ve been fortunate to be surrounded by dedicated and knowledgeable co-workers. You are only as good as the people around you!” The staff at NDVS/SB is fortunate to be surrounded by Lanna’s desire to learn and her ceaseless energy.

Tell us about your educational and employment history.
I received my Bachelor of Arts degree in Elementary Education from Mary College with a minor in Physical Education. I was an elementary school teacher for 16 years, teaching grades 3-6. I went back and obtained my Kindergarten endorsement in 1991 and taught Kindergarten for 7 years. In 2000, I received my vision credential, and in 2004, I received my master’s in Special Education and Visual Impairment from the University of North Dakota. I recently received my CVI Endorsement from the Perkins School for the Blind.

Why did you decide to go back to school to become a TVI?  
A former teacher at NDVS/SB, Connie Osowski, was the one who led me to this field. Connie and I used to be colleagues in Wing, ND, where I taught prior to this job. She called me and said, “Lanna, I think you’d like being a vision teacher,” and the rest is history!  

What is your role at NDVS/SB? 
I was the first Outreach Coordinator hired specifically for Region 6, which includes an area of six counties: Stutsman, Dickey, LaMoure, McIntosh, Logan, and Kidder. When I was initially hired, I served ages 0 to adult, or as we sometimes say, “womb to tomb”! Then around 2012, our school hired and designated adult service providers so my contact with adults is limited now. I work with the early intervention population 0-3 and school-aged children 4-21. A big part of my job is completing Functional Visual Evaluations and Cortical Visual Assessments. In the 0-3 age group, it’s about providing supports and resources to families as well as appropriate strategies, whether it be visual adaptations or sensory substitutions, like tactual learning. For school-age children, it’s making sure that they have equal access to the curriculum. 

What is your favorite thing about your job? 
It is working with the students, as they are always a bright spot in my day. My second favorite thing is the variety this job brings to me every day. I never have to worry about two days being the same!    

What is your favorite lesson to teach? 
I love teaching braille! I’ve learned so much about braille thanks to one of my current students and a former colleague, Candy Lien. I’m always asking Candy to share any tips to help remember contractions. For example, the period: It looks like a lower d, so think “dot.” For the question mark, it looks like a lowered h, so think of the question “huh?” or “how?” We all do better when we have little mnemonic devices to help us remember things!  

I also really enjoy setting up Little Rooms in homes or schools. It’s such a great independent and controlled learning environment for students with additional disabilities. To see students or infants explore and move on their own - sometimes for the first time - brings joy to everyone! 

You are known for your great enthusiasm for your job. What keeps you excited to go to work every day?  
It’s working with the students and all the learning that comes with it. Technology is constantly changing and the knowledge base around Cortical Visual Impairment is ever-growing.  

What is something that may surprise people to learn about NDVS/SB? 
It’s not unusual for an Outreach Teacher to have the same student throughout their educational career, including infancy! 

Tell us about your time away from work. 
I recently became a grandma for the first time, so I am enjoying that new chapter in my life. In my spare time, I enjoy reading, as I am a member of the Page Turner’s Book Club. This book club is part of P.E.O. (Philanthropic Educational Organization), where I am an active member.  

Contact Lanna at 701-253-3012 or lslaby@nd.gov

Lanna standing next to Phil at a conference in 2007.
In 2007, Lanna was thrilled to meet renowned leader in the field of vision Phil Hatlen, when she attended the DeafBlind Symposium in Texas. Phil was instrumental in establishing the ECC and won many prestigious awards during his lifetime. He died in 2016 but his influence continues to this day.


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