March 22, 2021 - Robbie Blaha Receives the Anne Sullivan Macy Medal and Texas Awards for Excellence in Education Given
Robbie Blaha, 2021 Anne Sullivan Macy Medal Recipient
Robbie has been a part of the Texas Deafblind Project for more than 35 years. Initially trained as a Teacher of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, she acquired her certificate as Teacher of Students with Visual Impairments in order to serve a classroom of students who are deafblind. She has continued in this field and become a leader in advocating for services and systems change impacting individuals who are deafblind. Robbie has worked on many national initiatives regarding Interveners, Teachers of Students who are Deafblind, and most recently focuses on the growing number of deafblind individuals who are proficient communicators to insure they have adequate supports in their educational settings. Robbie has presented throughout the United States and in other countries. Her passion remains working with individual students and the teachers and family members surrounding each child.
Robbie Blaha, Anne Sullivan Macy Medal Recipient
The Anne Sullivan Macy Medal is awarded to individuals or groups from all over the world who have demonstrated outstanding service to the deafblind community.
The medal was first awarded in 1966 by Perkins in partnership with The Industrial Home for the Blind in Brooklyn, New York to recognize “the daily, tireless effort that goes into the teaching of a deafblind child during both school and after-school hours.” Past recipients include parents, teachers and caregivers as well as foundations and public figures who have worked to break down barriers facing people who are deafblind.
Robbie Blaha, M.Ed. has 45 years’ experience in the field of deafblindness as a classroom teacher, itinerant teacher and consultant. Robbie has been a part of the Texas Deafblind Project for more than 35 years. Initially trained as a Teacher of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, she acquired her certificate as Teacher of Students with Visual Impairments in order to serve a classroom of students who are deafblind. Robbie was a teacher when deafblind education consisted of pilot programs, before Public Law 94-142 came into play. She worked in the classroom until she became the first person hired into the Texas Deafblind Project. Even though she has in effect retired from the Project, she maintains a part in the Project and continues to provide training and develop materials at both a state and national level. Robbie also presents internationally from time to time.
Throughout her career, she has been an advocate and leader for quality services for students who are deafblind in Texas. She brought the notion of educational interveners to Texas and was instrumental in creating this profession in Texas. She has also been involved in national initiatives to bring interveners into our field and create standards for them. Robbie has also lent her efforts to bringing about teachers of students who are deafblind in Texas.
Though Robbie was a reluctant writer at first, she has authored many articles and several books including Calendars for Students with Multiple Impairments Including Deaf-Blindness . She has co-written parts of the SKI*HI training manuals, co-written the Assessment of Deafblind Access to Manual Language Systems (ADAMLS) , co-authored Introduction to Sexuality Education for Individuals who are Deaf-Blind and Significantly Developmentally Delayed for DB-LINK.
As a parent of a young adult with disabilities, Robbie is very family focused, recognizing the expertise of parents and other family members to advocate for and teach their child. Texas parents have a deep and abiding respect for her work. Robbie is a passionate advocate for individuals who are deafblind, their families and the educational staff that support them.
Currently her primary work focuses on the growing number of students who are deafblind and are proficient communicators to ensure they have adequate support in their educational settings. Robbie continues to develop materials and provide training to help educational staff understand how to provide quality programming for their students who are deaflbind.
All of the members of the Texas Deafblind Project wish to congratulate Robbie on this well-deserved award. We value her so much as a colleague and a friend.
Texas Awards for Excellence in Education
The staff at Texas Deafblind Outreach and our colleagues and families across the state are so pleased to recognize the efforts and contributions of the 2021 recipients of the Texas Awards for Excellence in Education. These awards were given during the closing day of the Symposium. These individuals were nominated by their colleagues and peers.
Trail Blazer Award
Given to a family member(s) who has, through their advocacy or efforts on behalf of their family member with deafblindness, blazed a trail that has made it easier for other families who follow.
Becky Harmon, Parent, Nationally Certified Intervener and DBMAT Secretary, Fort Worth, TX
(From Vivecca Hartman-President of DBMAT) ” Becky Harmon did whatever it took over the last year and a half, especially during COVID, to help DBMAT to be effective. We implemented our new website, converted our golf tournament to an on-line auction and she was there with us every step of the way – working hard!!! She is a dedicated single mom, with personal health challenges, yet makes time to help others!!! She is a great advocate and deserving of recognition. She has been very dedicated and willing to help in any capacity. DBMAT is fortunate to have her on our Board.”
Becky is a parent of her 27-year-old daughter, Kersten, who is deafblind with multiple disabilities due to Partial Agenesis of the Corpus Callosum. Becky has a 31-year background in education with a Bachelor of Science in Secondary Education with an emphasis in Composite Science from Texas Tech University, a Master of Science in Elementary Education from Eastern New Mexico University (ENMU), and a Master in School Counseling from Dallas Baptist University. She is a Nationally Certified Intervener working with her daughter after completing coursework at Utah State University. Becky continues to educate and empower others in the field of deafblindness by sharing information to help navigate the predicaments, challenges, and rewarding situations of loved one with deafblindness. As Secretary of DBMAT (Deaf-Blind Multihandicapped Association of Texas) she helps with the website, newsletter, fundraising, yearly conference, as well as legislating at the Capitol for better quality of life for all deafblind individuals. She was awarded the Olivia Cruz Award in 2020. Becky is a lifetime member of DBMAT as well as NFADB (National Family Association of Deaf-Blind) where she was awarded a scholarship to attend the Deafblind International Conference in Cape Cod, Massachusetts as a parent advocate. She has written multiple articles for DBMAT, NFADB as well as for TSBVI Outreach TX SenseAbilities newsletters. She is currently serving on the National Family Health Care Transition Advisory Group for Got Transition, representing NFADB. Becky loves gardening and is working to train a chocolate, labradoodle puppy as a service dog.
Educational Intervener Award
Given to an intervener who has demonstrated excellence in their role of support to a child with deafblindness and whose efforts have contributed to the success of the intervener model in the educational setting in Texas.
Melody Rogers, Intervener, Mesquite ISD, Mesquite, TX
(From Shenale Standish-Mother) “Melody Rogers has been my son’s intervener for 5 years. She has gone above and beyond for my son, not only in the educational setting, but in life situations (orientation and mobility and eating). She has given him the confidence that he needed to be as independent as possible. I feel like she has been instrumental in his success thus far! We look forward to having her a few more years.”
Melody has worked for the Mesquite ISD Regional Day School Program for the Deaf for 42 years. During that time she has held positions as Level 1 interpreter, paraprofessional and intervener. She has spent the last six years working as an intervener with a student who is deafblind. She describes the opportunity to watch her student grow and be successful in his learning environment as “the most rewarding role I have held thus far.”
Community Intervener Award
Given to an intervener who has demonstrated excellence in their role of support to a child or adult with deafblindness and whose efforts have contributed to the success of the intervener model in the community setting in Texas.
Luis Miranda, Community Intervener, Houston, TX
(From Amy Faught-Intervener) “Luis Miranda attended the Intervener program at Utah State University several years ago. He has proven his abilities with many students with deafblindness. He has so much knowledge and insight related to all things deafblind. I have personally witnessed his commitment and amazing relationship that he has formed with an 11 year old deafblind boy. He has worked with this boy in a home setting for several years. I am also an intervener, but in the public school setting. He has been somewhat of a mentor for me; always answering my questions, providing support, and collaborating ideas. I believe Luis deserves this award, because when I think of the difference he has made in the lives of people with deafblindness it motivates me to do more!”
Luis has worked as an intervener for a little over 10 years. He completed the Intervener course online at Utah State University and participated in the development of the Open Hands Open Access (OHOA) online learning modules. Luis worked for almost 4 years in the classroom setting, where he and his team received the Marty Murrell Excellence in Education Award. For the past 7 years, he has been in a private home setting where he has not only been able to work with a Deafblind student, but has also had the opportunity to serve as a mentor to his student’s educational intervener. He hopes to share his experiences to make it easier on those who are new to the intervener field so that more students who are Deafblind students can benefit from his experience and the tactics, and materials he and his colleague, Amy, have created. Luis loves all of the challenges that come with working the field of Deafblindness. He looks forward to gaining more opportunities to share what he has learned with others, and plans to continue working in the field of Deafblindness and supporting opportunities for Deafblind individuals everywhere to reach their best quality of life.
Ann Silverrain Award
Given to an individual who has made an extraordinary commitment to improving the lives of individuals who are Deafblind in Texas.
Elaine Robertson, Instructional Officer for Deaf Education and Vision Services, Katy ISD, Katy TX
(From the Deafblind team in Katy ISD) “Mrs. Robertson has contributed toward bringing joy, purpose, and meaningfulness in the lives of individuals with deafblindness throughout her educational career as a teacher and administrator. She shares her passion for the students and their families by networking, educating, and leading. Mrs. Robertson’s journey into deafblindness began with her sister who became deafblind during the Rubella epidemic. Deafblindness became part of who her sister was as a person. Elaine and her sister shared a special, unique bond that lasted a lifetime of unconditional love. As teachers who work with Elaine Robertson, we are honored to nominate her for the Ann Silverrain Award. With her 30 years of dedication to the students with deafblindness, the Ann Silverrain Award would be a special honor to recognize her lifetime commitment to the individuals with deafblindness and her love for her sister.”
Elaine. Robertson has worked in the field of deaf education for thirty years. She received her Bachelor’s Degree from the University of Texas at Austin in Communication Disorders and her Master’s Degree from Gallaudet University. She has served in several positions over the years, including Deaf Education Elementary Teacher, Parent-Infant Advisor, and currently Instructional Officer of Deaf Education, Vision, and Assistive Technology. In 2009, Mrs. Robertson served as the Director of Education at the Center for Hearing and Speech before returning to Katy. Elaine serves on the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired School Board. Additionally, she is a board member for the National Visiting Committee for DeafTec. Elaine grew up with a profoundly deaf sister who inspires her to this day.
Marty Murrell Excellence in Education Award
Given to a professional in education who has made a long-term commitment to excellence in education for Texas students who are Deafblind.
Susie Tiggs, Deaf/Hard-of-Hearing Lead for the Texas Sensory Support Network, Region 11 ESC, Ft. Worth, TX
(From Hillary Keys-Texas Sensory Support Network) “Most know Susie Tiggs as the Texas Sensory Support Network State Lead for Deaf/Hard of Hearing Services. She is also a Teacher of Students with Visual Impairments, and she has a great breadth and depth of knowledge about meeting the needs of children who are deafblind. She has been quietly involved in many important projects in collaboration with the Texas Deafblind Project, has created online instructional courses around instructing students who are deafblind, provided untold hours of technical assistance around deafblindness, and presents locally and nationally on deafblind related topics. Susie personifies the professional who has made a long-term commitment to excellence in education for Texas students who are deafblind.”
Susie Tiggs is the Deaf/Hard-of-Hearing Lead for the Texas Sensory Support Network. She has worked in the fields of Deaf/Hard-of-Hearing, Visual Impairment, Deafblind, and Assistive Technology for over 30 years. After graduating from Texas Tech University with a degree in Deaf Education, Susie worked as a teacher of students who are deaf or hard of hearing in a self-contained classroom. Her first year in the classroom she was blessed with two students who were deafblind, both of whom were proficient communicators and learning braille. She was fascinated, the TVI was patient and tolerant and taught her along with the students, and that year Texas Tech University announced the addition of the Deafblind Master’s Program. Susie jumped at the opportunity to learn all she could and graduated with her master’s degree in Deafblind Education in 1992. (She is very excited to know that after waiting patiently for 29 years, she may officially become a certified TDB, if her internship hours from 1991 will be accepted!). Susie also had the privilege to work as a Support Service Provider when not in the classroom and continued to learn with every student and client she interacted with. She is currently a doctoral candidate, and her research focuses on personalized professional development and digital badges.