Friday, September 9, 2022

Categories: All News Items, Adult Programming News, Instruction, News Event, Spotlight, Student Programming, Superintendent

By Paul OlsonImage of Paul Olson a middle aged man with short hear, glasses, goatee, with a white shirt and red tie standing by a brick wall.

Ready Set Go! Ready or not it’s the beginning of a new school year. With this new beginning comes a great deal of anticipation I hope all of which is good. There is an energy in the air with the excitement of students being with friends again and for the love of learning. 

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Thursday, August 25, 2022

Categories: All News Items, Instruction, Spotlight, Student Programming

NDVS/SB Region 4 Coordinator
TVI, COMS, Mom, Glamper

Danielle stands smiling in front of a brick wall wearing a blue and white striped dress, a red cardigan and a long necklace. She has chin-length brown hair.August can bring a range of emotions to teachers and students. Some dread back-to-school time, and others – like Danielle Hillebrand – look forward to it all year. This year is an especially exciting time for Danielle, as she’ll be starting a new job at North Dakota Vision Services/School for the Blind. Over the years, Danielle says, “I have had the privilege of working with several people from NDVS/SB who have shared their resources, knowledge, time, and passion for serving our students and clients with visual impairments,” and she is looking forward to now calling these people her colleagues. 

While it was hard to leave her former position in the public schools, she knew she had to apply for this position when it opened last spring. “It speaks volumes that you’ll find so many people who have worked for NDVS/SB for years and only leave for retirement. I just knew that they had a quality I wanted to be a part of!” she says. Read on to find out more about what Danielle is looking forward to in her new job, what she’s nervous about, and why country living is the life for her.

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Thursday, August 11, 2022

Categories: All News Items, Spotlight, Student Programming

Rowan stands in their white graduation cap and gown. Their brown hair is tied in a ponytail and they are wearing a black button-down shirt and gold necklace underneath the gown.We periodically share a young adult's story of success. In this profile, Rowan Stomberg (they/them), who grew up attending short-term programs at NDVS/SB, reflects on the challenges they've faced as they've gotten older. These challenges, Rowan has discovered, have taught them so much and made them who they are -- someone who is now ready to face their future with excitement.

The “No Thank You Bite” was a very important rule in Rowan Stomberg’s home while growing up. “It was my dad’s rule, and it meant we had to at least try it,” whether it was a taste of mushrooms or a new sport, Rowan explains. “Then, if I didn’t like it, I could say that I at least tried it.” As they’ve gotten older, the No Thank You Bite has taken on higher stakes. It’s no longer just referring to new foods or new games. Over the last few years, Rowan has had a variety of life experiences – some that didn’t turn out as planned – but they are grateful for all the “no thank you bites” they’ve tasted. “Making mistakes is how we learn,” Rowan says.

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Tuesday, July 26, 2022

Categories: All News Items, Spotlight

NDVS/SB Business Manager
Budget Balancer, Lifelong Learner, World Traveler

Tami stands on a boat next to her husband Brian who is steering the boat, which is on a lake. Tami Purcell’s love of travel started early. “When I was young,” she remembers, “my mother and I traveled through many states via train. I would watch out the window for hours at all the different landscapes.” She’s continued to seek new landscapes throughout her life. “I have traveled to Europe twice, Great Britain, Mexico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Jamaica, Canada, and several states,” Tami says. “I have a goal to visit all 50 states and a national park each year.” And she’s shared her love of travel with her family and friends. “When our children were younger, we took them to Glacier via train so they could experience the way I traveled when young,” she explains. 

But most days, Tami can be found in her office at NDVS/SB keeping the budget balanced, making sure building projects are on track, listening to employees who may have a question or a problem, and keeping the business side of NDVS/SB running smoothly. She works hard so she can travel far. Read on to learn more about her job, what changes she’s witnessed during her 22 years at NDVS/SB, and where she’s planning to spend her next vacation days.

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Tuesday, July 12, 2022

Categories: All News Items, News Event, Spotlight

headshot of a smiling woman with wavy brown hairThis spring, the book Guidelines and Games for Teaching Efficient Braille Reading, 2nd ed. was released by APH Press. The first edition, which was released over 40 years ago in 1981, was written by two leaders in the vision world at that time, San Francisco State University Professor Dr. Sally Mangold and Dr. Myrna Olson from the University of North Dakota (UND). The second edition also has a UND professor at its helm. Renae Bjorg, PhD, who serves as the program coordinator of the Visual Impairment specialization at the University of North Dakota, was honored to write this updated version and follow in the footsteps of her own mentor, Dr. Olson. 

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Sunday, July 10, 2022

Categories: All News Items, Assistive Technology

by Laurie Westling

Do you have an Amazon Echo, Echo Dot, or Echo Show? Do you wonder what you can use it for besides asking the time or temperature and setting a timer? Did you know there are skills that you can enable that are specifically for the blind and low vision community? Today I will introduce you to some Alexa skills that you might enjoy.

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Sunday, July 3, 2022

Categories: All News Items, Spotlight

Lacey stands next to her husband Jackson who is lifting son Reuben up by the arms. Lacey and Reuben have big smiles and Jackson's mouth is open wide, as if he is surprised.New ND Dual Sensory Project's Director looks forward to continuing to collaborate and partner with NDVS/SB to best serve students and families across the state.

The North Dakota Dual Sensory Project is in new hands, but they are capable ones. Lacey Long, who formerly worked for the Morton-Sioux Special Education Unit as a Teacher of Students with Visual Impairments (TSVI), took over the role of Project Director for the ND Dual Sensory Project this spring from Dr. Brent Askvig, who retired. In her new role, she will also serve as a Research Associate for the ND Center for Persons with Disabilities (NDCPD), which houses the ND Dual Sensory Project. “The last few years, I have worked on the [ND Dual Sensory] project, instructing some of the OHOA (“Open Hands, Open Access”) modules and helping to plan the state’s deaf-blind summer institute, so it felt like a natural fit for me to move into the Project Director role when Dr. Askvig retired,” Lacey explained. 

Paul Olson, NDVS/SB Superintendent, agrees that Lacey is well-matched for this job and is looking forward to continuing to collaborate with the Dual Sensory Project to help support children who experience dual sensory loss and their families. “Lacey is passionate about every student she has served in her career,” Paul explained. “She has multiple teaching credentials and really is the most diversely trained educator I have ever had the pleasure to work with. Her knowledge and enthusiasm for working with and as part of a team is unmatched. Her positive attitude and work ethic is contagious.” We asked Lacey the following questions to find out more about her and how NDVS/SB and the ND Dual Sensory Project will partner under her leadership.

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Friday, June 24, 2022

Categories: All News Items, Adult Programming News, Spotlight

Vision Outreach Specialist
Instructor, Mother, Motivator

Kristina poses in front of the red food truck she used to own with her two boys Alec and Cameron.Not many Vision Outreach Specialists can list “Food Truck Owner” on their resume. But NDVS/SB’s newest employee, Kristina Brown, can. Two years ago, she and her two sons, Cameron (28) and Alec (17), opened the Dog Gone Good Food Truck in Dickinson, ND. “We served amazing food, including a specialty cheeseburger called the West Coast Burger, and strived to serve food that just wasn’t available in Dickinson at that time. And we succeeded!” Kristina says. But the food truck was more of a family project than a business venture, so when she was given the opportunity to get back into the vision world and work at NDVS/SB, she put down the burgers and went back to braille. 

Kristina, who grew up in California but moved to North Dakota for a job with Vocational Rehabilitation ten years ago, is motivated by what her colleagues in the vision world do, and how they – and she – can help clients live a more independent life. “It’s the overall growth that rewards me. I believe my job is to work myself out of a job with individuals, so they don’t need me anymore. That is truly fulfilling to me,” she says.

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Friday, June 3, 2022

Categories: All News Items, Spotlight

We periodically share a young adult’s story of success. In this profile, Morgan Vanwell shares her journey after losing her vision at 19, just as she was deciding which path to take after high school. While her vision loss may have set her on a different track than she expected, she is grateful for all that has happened, and is excitedly looking ahead to the future, with binoculars at the ready. 

Morgan sits on the ground at a park smiling with her boyfriend Jeddrey and son and their 2 dogs.Jack Meagher, who was a pioneer in the field of sports massage, once said that “massage is the study of anatomy in braille.” Morgan Vanwell agrees with Meagher’s statement, because like all massage therapists, Morgan relies on her sense of touch to find the places in her clients’ bodies that are adhered, or knotted up, and to help them relax and recover from injury or overexertion. But, as someone with a visual impairment, Morgan’s trust in her sense of touch may be greater than other massage therapists’.

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Friday, May 27, 2022

Categories: All News Items, Spotlight

NDVS/SB Houseparent
Student, Future TSVI, Hidden Hero

Amy sits at a table in the Commons at NDVS/SB between 2 elementary age boys playing checkers.There are many hidden heroes at North Dakota Vision Services/School for the Blind. The hard work of maintenance staff and administrative assistants often go unnoticed. The person who produces braille and large print materials is often taken for granted. And houseparents – who are frequently declared “favorites” by students and clients – also fall into this category. 

What is a houseparent? Houseparents are the hidden heroes who swoop in after the teachers and instructors go home for the day and work with the students and clients in the evenings and overnights during short-term program weeks. In houseparent Amy Follette’s own words, a houseparent is “someone who helps with homework, outings, making or assisting with dinner, and being the student’s and client’s friend.” That last part – simply being a friend – is what endears many of the students and clients to the houseparents, and to the rest of the staff. 

For 4 years, Amy Follette has been a friend to dozens of students and adult clients who have come to the School for short-term programs. You could say it’s in her blood. Her mother is a TSVI in Minnesota and encouraged her to apply for a houseparent position when she started attending UND. “Honestly, I really needed a job,” Amy said, “but I stayed because I fell in love with the School, the staff, their mission, and most of all the students and clients.” This spring will be Amy’s last with NDVS/SB, but before she moves on, we asked her to share what she’s learned from her time here. Keep reading because she’s got some trivia to share!

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