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AFBAmerican Foundation®
for the Blind

Expanding possibilities for people with vision loss

The 2017 Delta Gamma Fellows

Each year, with generous sponsorship from the Delta Gamma Foundation, the best and brightest students who are pursuing careers in the blindness field are able to attend the AFB Leadership Conference. We are thrilled to host these talented individuals and their advisers, with the knowledge that they will be the future leaders of our field.

Meet the 2017 DG Foundation Fellows

Last fall, Mert Bilgin started his Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction in Special Education (Major Visual Disabilities) at Florida State University. He finished his one year of teaching in a special school in Turkey. He is particularly interested in teaching children with multiple disabilities and improving their functional skills. Before he moved to Tallahassee, he earned his MSc in inclusive and special education from University of Edinburgh in United Kingdom.

Mehmet Cihan is pursuing his Ph.D. in Special Education with specification on Visual Impairment at Texas Tech University. Before he came to the U.S., he worked as an elementary school teacher for six years. He holds a bachelor's degree in Elementary School Teaching and received a master's degree in Social Studies from Turkey in 2011. While working at an elementary school, he received a scholarship from the Ministry of National Education in Turkey that allowed him to receive an English education and do my Ph.D. He is planning to go back to Turkey after he graduates. His research interests include the itinerant teaching model and expanded core curriculum.

Jennifer Eaton is currently enrolled in the Orientation and Mobility Certification program at the University of Pittsburgh. As a teacher of the visually impaired (TVI) for the past 16 years at VisionCorps in Lancaster, Pa, working specifically with infants and toddlers, she saw a need for a COMS. Upon completion of the program, she plans to take her new skills and knowledge base into Early Intervention in addition to serving the adult population in her area. In her free time, she enjoys white water kayaking with Team River Runner, where she serves as the Kids Are OuttaSight Coordinator.

Teertha Dhanya Emerson is currently obtaining her master’s degree in teaching students with visual impairments at the University of Arizona. She decided to enter into this field because she considers working with visually impaired children and being able to assist their success the most rewarding experience in her life. She also wishes to begin participating in advocacy groups, such as the American Foundation for the Blind, to make a difference in this arena. She is ready to apply her passion, drive, and insight to creating a brighter future for visually impaired children.

Genevieve Francoeur-Anderson is a first year Ph.D. student at the University of Northern Colorado studying deafblindness with a focus on those with additional disabilities. Her research interests include behavior, inclusive practices, and assessment. She is also interested in policy and policy implementation at a state and district level.  

Allison Goldstein-Calderon currently provides direct, indirect, and consultative services to 20 students with hearing loss, vision loss, or a combination of both from kindergarten to 12th grade as the Teacher of the Deaf and Teacher of the Visually Impaired for the Manhasset School District on Long Island, New York. She began her career as a Senior Instructor at the Helen Keller National Center in Sands Point, NY. While she already holds a Bachelor’s degree in Speech Language Pathology and Audiology and a Master’s degree in Deaf Education, Allison has chosen to pursue an Advanced Certificate from Hunter College, in order to become a highly effective Teacher of the Visually Impaired. She is honored to be recognized for her passion and hard work to become the best TVI that she can be.

Linda Hagood is a speech language pathologist who has contributed more than 25 years to the field of visual impairment through her roles as a therapist and curriculum writer. Her areas of special expertise are in the areas of communication intervention for students with visual impairment and additional disabilities, including deafblindness and autism. She is currently a doctoral student at Portland State University, and is planning intervention research for children with visual impairment and autism, funded through the National Leadership Consortium for Sensory Disabilities. She is excited to be an invited speaker at this conference, where she will be presenting on Visual Impairment and Autism.

Christina Liebler is currently enrolled in the Virginia Consortium graduate certification program through Old Dominion University. She works full time as a Teacher of the Visually Impaired in Williamsburg-James City County Schools. She has a passion for assistive technology, innovation and pursuing grants to help visually impaired students to access the world in new (and whenever possible, affordable) ways. Christina is married to a youth pastor and is also a mother to three children, ages 9, 12 and 14. She enjoys learning new skills and would love to encourage more students to pursue a career in the VI education fields.

This semester, Dmitry Neronov is completing his M.A. in Special Education. He currently works as a Teacher for the Visually Impaired in Cupertino and Sunnyvale, CA. He is looking forward to his first Leadership Conference, so he can learn how to be a more effective and knowledgeable vision specialist. He hopes to continue working as a TVI in his current district for many years to come.

Tracie Quinn is in the final stage of completion of both her dual certification as an Orientation & Mobility Specialist and the completion of her Master's Degree with a specialization in Visual Impairment from Stephen F. Austin State University. Tracie is a long time TVI who returned to add the O&M certification and continue to complete her master’s degree.

Hilary Travers currently attends Vanderbilt University where she is enrolled as a doctoral student in the visual impairment program. Her current areas of interest include working with students with visual impairments and their families, improving transition service plans, and creating employment opportunities for students with combined sensory loss. She has a strong interest in policy and research aimed at making systematic changes to better include students with sensory disabilities in every aspect of their community.

Rachel Zahn is earning her Master’s Degree in Special Education with a specialization in Visual Impairments at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. She has a background as a reading specialist and currently works as a teacher of students with visual impairments.

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