Regional Coordinator, Regions 7 & 8
TVI, Teammate, Proud Irishwoman, Grandma-to-be
Mary Verlinde, the NDVS/SB Regional Coordinator for western North Dakota, loves her job and loves her colleagues. “NDVS/SB is a great place to work. I love having the support and understanding of my colleagues, both at work and outside of work. We are all striving for the same thing, which is to help individuals with vision loss. We all learn together!”
Mary’s colleagues feel the same way about her. Mary is “compassionate,” said one colleague. “Fun to be around and dedicated to her students,” said another. “Helper and thinks outside the box.” The list goes on:
“Talented, modest, kind.”
“An awesome Irish woman who is very knowledgeable in all areas of vision and always willing to lend an ear.”
“A spitfire Irish mother with a wonderful and warm spirit of energy. You just admire her for all the hard work and care she uses when working with students and parents.”
“A seasoned TVI who always goes over and above for her students.”
“Always willing to help, whether it is to share ideas from her wealth of knowledge or jump into work on a project.”
Indeed, Mary is beloved at NDVS/SB and in the schools, homes, and communities in which she serves individuals with vision loss. Read on to find out how she stumbled into the vision field and why she is the queen of Queen.
What is your educational background?
I have a Bachelor of Science in biology and history from Minot State University in 1990. (I wanted to be a park ranger or wildlife biologist. A part of me still wants to!)
Next, I got a degree in Elementary Education from Ft. Hays State University in Kansas in 1995.
Then finally, I got a master’s in early childhood special education with a Vision credential from UND in 1998.
Why did you decide to become a TVI?
I was working on the master’s for special ed at UND, and I happened to be walking in the education building one day and saw a poster about the vision program. I thought it would be interesting, so I went to talk to Myrna Olson, and the rest is history! Before this, I was seriously considering going into deaf education.
What is your favorite thing about your job?
I love to go in and just play with the students, especially during my home visits with the infants. I also like to develop rapport with parents and help them understand the vision condition of their child.
What is your favorite lesson to teach?
I do like to teach braille, although I don’t get to do it enough! I also like to work with students who have CVI (Cortical Visual Impairment) and help parents and staff learn and explore strategies and accommodations that can help the student. CVI is a very complex visual impairment, and every student is unique.
What exactly does an outreach coordinator like yourself do?
Outreach services consist of so many things; we wear so many hats! We are teachers of school-age students who may be learning braille, or we may be learning about different technology or strategies to help in the classroom. We are listening ears for parents who are anxious about their child who may have just been diagnosed with a vision loss. We are evaluators who must be observant and knowledgeable to assess and give recommendations to families and schools who are looking for answers. We are collaborators with other agencies and schools who are all working towards doing their best for our students. But most of all we are humans who care about people, especially children!
I forgot to mention we are also good drivers!
What keeps you excited about your job?
I like to meet new people and learn about them and feel that I can make a difference in their lives by helping them learn about vision.
Tell us about your life outside of work.
I have been married to my husband Paul for 30 years, and we have two great daughters, Meghan and Kaycee. Meghan is married to her husband Charlie, and they will be having my first granddaughter soon! Kaycee is engaged to her fiancé’ Kaila, and they will be married next July. As for hobbies, I have too many and too little time to do them all! I love to do genealogy, read, make videos for family and friends for special occasions, work on a book that I am writing, spend time with family, collect Freddie Mercury and Queen memorabilia (I’m obsessed!), drink Irish whiskey, and of course, travel! I am a loyal Kansas City Chiefs fan.
I wonder if everyone knows about my little obsession for Ireland!! (ha, ha!)
Anything else you want people to know?
I am currently the president of Dakotas AER chapter. I am proud to be a Teacher of the Visually Impaired and know that I can make a difference!