Regional Coordinator, Region 5
Teacher, O&M Specialist, Lifelong Learner, Mom, Foodie
Like many vision professionals, Melissa Snyder’s path to NDVS/SB was not a straight one. “I started college at North Dakota State College of Science in Computer Programming and Web Design. After a year of school, I decided to look into other career areas, and education seemed to be a better fit for me.” It certainly has been. Melissa has gone on to obtain two master’s degrees in education (Early Childhood Special Education from Minot State and Special Education of the Visually Impaired from UND), as well as her Orientation and Mobility certification from the University of Northern Colorado. “I love to learn new things, and this job provides me with learning opportunities often,” she said. Find out how Melissa’s path led to NDVS/SB – and how to track her favorite restaurants – by reading on.
Why did you decide to go into the vision field?
The first time I worked with a preschooler with a visual impairment was in my second year of teaching. At that time, Linda Kraft came in as a consultant for that student. I wanted to do everything I could for all the students I worked with, and that was my first look into vision services. I was then given an opportunity by the special education director in Wahpeton to work with a fifth grader who is blind for half days. I didn’t hesitate to take this opportunity to learn and grow in an area of need for students. I was lucky to have an amazing mentor in Jeanie Steckler who guided me along the way. I am lucky to have learned so many things from her and from my student in those first few years on the journey to where I am currently. I love what I am doing, I am thankful for all the people I have met in this field, and look forward to continuing to learn and grow in this profession.
What is your role at NDVS/SB?
I am the Outreach Coordinator for Region 5. I work as a TVI and provide O&M instruction in my region. While I think we all wear many hats throughout every day, this is my job title.
Outreach services encompasses a wide range of things and can vary greatly by family, school district, and individual student need. We evaluate children in order to make determinations about that child’s needs. Lifelong learning is a must as we are constantly learning new strategies and ideas to work with the children we serve, or researching a diagnosis we haven’t heard of before to make sure we have a clear picture of each child. We also provide support to families and school staff through trainings, consultations, and direct services in order to make sure our students have the things they need to be successful. The list of things we do is long and seems to change daily at times. Most of all we care about each of the children and families we serve and want to support them in any way we can.
How long have you worked at NDVS/SB? What brought you here?
This is my third year at NDVS/SB. I have always felt that I have been guided to the places I have ended up professionally. When I went into education, I thought I would teach 2nd grade for my whole career, but I have yet to teach in a regular education position. Once I started working in special education, I couldn’t see myself doing anything else. The position at NDVS/SB opened up at the right time, and I took it as a sign of where I needed to go next. I feel that this is where I was meant to be and had a strong pull to stay in the vision field.
What is your favorite thing about your job?
The families and children I work with. I enjoy watching them learn and grow together and being able to work as a team to find the right solutions for each individual child and family. Advocating for students is something I am passionate about due to personal experience and feel that at times I need to be the voice for them.
Tell us about your life outside of work.
Jeff and I have been together for twenty years, and we have three children with quite a span in ages, from Ashlynn who is 28, Gavin age 17, and Tessa age 11. Ashlynn is an adventurer and is currently living on the East Coast getting ready for her next adventure which I hope brings her closer to home. Gavin is a senior and keeps us busy watching him play football, basketball, and baseball. Tessa is full of energy and loves to talk when she isn’t out on the ice preparing for her next figure skating competition. We have two boxers, Rosco and Duke, who keep us on our toes with their shenanigans. In the summer you will find me on the golf course, in my garden, or on a boat at Ottertail Lake. One of my favorite things to do is cook and bake, especially when it comes to decorating cakes. I love trying out new foods and different places to go out to eat, so I started a food blog over a year ago documenting the different places I have been. I have found that I have some followers who really depend on my reviews to find places to try which has been fun. Check out Melissa’s Midwest Food Blog on Facebook!
Contact Melissa at email@example.com or 701-298-4840.