#HumansOfAIDB is our way of showcasing the people who help make AIDB #DeafBlindLimitless! Follow along as we meet people from around AIDB's programs who transform the lives of those we serve beyond all expectations!
Met Alexandra "Alex" Tenney! She works as a Job Developer at the AIDB Mobile Regional Center. We sat down with her to discuss her most treasured memory.
“Mmm…. There are so many! One is when I was 16 and my brother was 17. Our mom took us to Costa Rica where she volunteered to work with the sea turtles in Tortuguero. We would play with the sea turtles and work the early morning shifts. We lived in the shacks. There was no light and early one morning, I looked up and could see the spine of the Milky Way. The water was glowing and I saw a sea turtle surfing in the water. I was sitting there, by myself, in a foreign country and was so completely happy. It was a defining moment that taught me how to find peace in nature.”
Meet Amanda Scott, the Database and Prospect Relations Specialist for the Alabama Institute for Deaf and Blind Foundation. We sat down with her to talk about her hero. Here's what she had to say!
"My dad (is my hero). He’s probably the smartest man I know. He just thinks outside of the box, you know? Like life hacks. He was life-hacking before it was a thing! He learned it from his mom who learned it from living through the depression era. He’s thrifty and uses his resources wisely. He’s a good steward of things. It’s just how his mind works; he thinks differently. He’s a courteous person who took everything life threw at him and overcame it. I admire him so much."
Meet Anna Trotman, Braille Instructor for Alabama Freedom Center for the Blind. We sat down with her to discuss what makes her feel the most accomplished or proud. Here's what she had to say!“I feel the most accomplished when a student who knows nothing about braille comes into our program and then, once they learn a couple of letters, they start to understand. A lightbulb goes off and they are able to read braille!”
Meet Artisha Richey! Artisha is the Diversity and Inclusion, Development & Training Coordinator in AIDB's Human Resources Department. We sat down with her to discuss what she's most proud of. Here's what she had to say!“I’m proud that I finished my college degree in criminal justice from Alabama State University. I faced so many obstacles but finished what I started. I began working with Job Corps helping 16 to 24-year-olds earn their high school diploma, learn a trade, and start work. I was there for 11.5 years before transitioning to AIDB. I love the work. There’s not a day that goes by where I don’t feel fulfilled.”
Meet Ben Payne! Ben works as a Reader Advisor at AIDB's Alabama Instructional Resource Center for the Blind. We sat down with him to talk about his most treasured memory. Here's what he had to say!"I have a few… But my wedding day and the birth of my son are what come to mind. My son was our firstborn. It took seven years for us to have him. It was special to be able to finally see him and hold him. It was great."
Meet Benita Bibb, Manager, Safety and Security! We sat down with Benita to discuss what advice she would have for someone who recently started working at AIDB. Here's what she had to say!"I would tell them to be genuine, be themselves, and be open. But most of all, learn the mission and why we’re here. Make AIDB, and yourself, better while you’re here. One of the things I love about my job is being of service to make our community safe and secure in order for our students, consumers, and staff to reach their limitless potential and fulfill this mission."
Meet Brenda Uptain! Ms. Uptain is a teacher at Alabama School for the Blind. We recently sat down with her to discuss her most treasured memory. Here's what she had to say!"Oh, I probably don’t have just one! My best memories are when I’ve imparted something to my students and they remember something I’ve said. They’ll come to me years later and say “remember when you told me…” I treasure that they remember what I’ve said! During my time here at ASB, I’ve taught a lot of students who have gone on to work at AIDB like Jonathan Sherbert and Donte Little. And this one time at Convocation, or it may have been Baccalaureate, the speaker recited a poem I teach. And all around me, the students I taught started reciting the poem word for word!"
Meet Brittany Craig, Total Rewards and Benefits Manager at AIDB. We sat down with her to discuss what advice she would give her younger self.“I would tell her to stand her ground. Know your worth. Stay strong. Stop worrying so much and enjoy life. It’s okay to make mistakes as long as you learn from them.”
Meet Chad Fleming! Chad works as the Dormitory Program Supervisor at AIDB Alabama School for the Deaf. We sat down with him to talk about the most influential person in his life.
“My grandmother. She recently passed with dementia. She taught Special Education. She encouraged me to get the education that got me where I am today. I’ve worked with AIDB for over 20 years. I worked in the dorms at Helen Keller School for 6 years and am now at ASD. To me, it’s home. I graduated from a mainstream school in Daphne but this… This is home.”
Meet Danya Banks, a consumer at the Opelika Regional Center! We spoke with her about her experience with AIDB. Here's what she had to say!"I moved from Montgomery to Opelika in 2018 after I retired. We had one event, a Deaf Chat, at the Auburn Mall and I thought, 'we need to have more events!' From there, we started to meet monthly and grow the Deaf Community in the area.Coming to Deaf Socials and seeing the Deaf Community be successful brings me a lot of joy. Now that we have this regional center, I’m happy that we get to use the building for events and mingle as a community."
Meet Edith Kelley! Edith Kelley is a Transition Coordinator at E. H. Gentry Facility. We sat down with her to discuss the people who have been influential in her life. Here's what she had to say!"That’s a hard one! To me, it’s important to have people in your circle who are supportive. It’s part of the reason I love AIDB. John Tiffany and Chelsey Smith are the reason I sit here today. Not only did they hire me as a teacher’s aide at Alabama School for the Deaf, they saw my potential and encouraged me to take the next steps in my career. They encouraged and supported me as I completed advanced degrees and became a teacher at ASD.I consider Vera Hendrix, Paul Millard, Dennis Gilliam, Jessica Edmiston, Jack Harrison, and countless others who have mentored and supported me throughout my career at AIDB.I also worked as the Mentoring Coordinator with the AIDB At-Risk Mentoring Grant. That position allowed me to work with students on several AIDB campuses (Alabama School for the Deaf, Alabama School for the Blind, Helen Keller School of Alabama, E. H. Gentry Facility, and the Tuscaloosa Regional Center) and students attending public schools, who are deaf or hard of hearing, in northwest Alabama. That position allowed me to develop a global view of AIDB, the students, and the consumers we serve.I hope that it translates to my students as I hope to instill in them the ability to develop their wings, feel comfortable in their skin, dream big dreams, and figure out their own pathway through life. And I hope they leave here knowing that we will always be there to partner with them, support them, and encourage them."
Meet Eli Cobb! Eli works as a Media Specialist for AIDB Special Projects. We sat down with him to talk about the most influential person in his life.
"Wow. There are quite a few. I have 2 to 3 that come to mind. My mother is one. We’re alike physically but also mentally. She has molded who I am today. My grandmothers as well. They helped to raise me. Their kind heart showed me that no matter who I encounter, there is always light."
Meet Evelyn Jordan, High School Administrative Assistant, Alabama School for the Deaf! We sat down with her to talk about her favorite AIDB memory. Here's what she had to say!"I have so many memories. But, one of my favorites is from my time working at Weaver Cottage in the dorms and seeing some of the children who didn’t have any language learn their first sign. And all of a sudden, they were signing and they were understanding. Being here, they would pick up different signs and have access to language."
Meet Isis Hamlin, Volunteer at the Marianna Greene Henry Special Equestrian Program (MGH)! We sat down with her to discuss her experience volunteering. Here's what she had to say!"I was a teacher at AIDB Alabama School for the Blind and retired from there in 2011. AIDB enables students to have so many experiences that they would not have otherwise, from specialized education to the opportunity to participate in sports and activities. When my husband and I decided to downsize and sell our farm and horses, I knew that MGH, the equestrian program at AIDB, would be the perfect home for my Foxy.Volunteering at MGH has been the best volunteer job I have ever had! I have been amazed by the students and what they accomplish; they bring happy tears to my eyes."
Meet Jeff Lang, Production Worker at Alabama Industries for the Blind! We sat down with him to discuss his favorite thing about working at AIDB. Here's what he had to say!"I love working with the products in the paper department. I love the lunchroom and the people; it’s definitely a great job! Limitless. That’s what we’re here for. We’re here to represent AIDB and the limitless possibilities. AIB started a while back and has grown a lot to include the tie line, the JLIST line, all kinds of good stuff!"
Meet Jennifer Oldenburg, DeafBlind Trainer with AIDB's Regional Early Acquisition of Language Program and the Center for Assistive Technology Training - CATT. We sat down with her to talk about her most treasured memory from her time at AIDB. Here's what she had to say!"I’ve been with AIDB for 27 years; so, there’s a lot! But, I guess one of my favorite memories was when I worked with the Awakenings Program at AIDB Helen Keller School of Alabama. It was a pilot program designed to help students to walk independently. One day, about 5 to 6 years into my career, I received a letter from a mom thanking us. At the time, she wasn’t sure if her child would ever be able to walk. But we kept persisting and working with teacher aides. It was exciting to see them take their first step. It was a limitless moment and a team success that was celebrated. In that moment, I learned to never say never and to celebrate even the small things."
Meet Jeri Bell! Jeri works in Customer Service at AIDB Alabama Industries for the Blind. We sat with her to talk about what makes her feel the most accomplished or proud. Here's what she had to say!
"My children. I’m a single mom to Logan and Landon. I also have a granddaughter, Willa Tate! But, I’m also very thankful for my job and the impact that it has had on me. Working here has been a very caring and humbling experience. It’s truly an honor to work here."
Meet Jessica Love, Administrative Assistant to the Executive Director at AIDB Alabama Industries for the Blind! We sat down with her to talk about her most treasured memory of AIDB. Here's what she had to say!"My favorite part of this job is the people. But one of my favorite memories is the time we threw Jeff Lang a surprise 50th Birthday Party. It meant a lot, not only to him, but to all us to be able to celebrate together.It’s also the friends that I’ve made here. Quantella was so dear to me. We were the same age; she passed away shortly before her 40th. I had bought her this keychain that I keep on my desk. I look at it when I’m having a tough day and remember her. She had the best attitude."
Meet Josh Sharpton, Director of Deaf Services at E. H. Gentry Facility. We sat down with him to talk about the happiest moment of his life. Here's what he had to say!"That’s a hard question…. Gosh. I don’t really think about the happiest moment of my life. I just live my life to the fullest, with the highs and lows, and that makes my year. I think in order to have the happy days, you have to have the bad days. They balance each other out. I like to look at life with a positive perspective, a positive attitude, and that’s a good thing.As a product of AIDB, a graduate of Alabama School for the Deaf, it’s important to me that I be a role model to our students/consumers and continue to serve our students and consumers with the vision of limitless culture here at AIDB."
Meet Julia Mattox, a Teacher Aide at Alabama School for the Blind! We sat down with her to talk about her most treasured memory from her time at AIDB. Here's what she had to say!"Wow. There are so many! But, it would be my first day as a substitute teacher at Helen Keller School. When I walked into the lunchroom that morning, every child turned to look at me. They came up to me, gave me a hug, and wanted to know who I was. They loved me no matter what. It didn’t matter what color I was, if I was rich or poor, if I was fat or skinny. They loved me for me."
Meet Kasie Bittle, Administrative Assistant to the Student Life Director, Helen Keller School of Alabama. We sat down with her to talk about what brings her the most joy at AIDB. Here's what she had to say!"I would have to say the kids. Any time I can step out of my office and interact with our students, it really makes my day. Our Christmas Program is one of my favorite things. Seeing the students have the opportunity to do a program similar to a mainstream school but to be able to be themselves, it brings me a lot of joy."
Meet Kate Storjohann, Lead Program Instructor at Marianna Greene Henry Special Equestrian Program. We spoke with her about what brings her the most joy. Here's what she had to say!
"Hmm… I would have to say that it’s seeing the kids build relationships with the horses and them learning and growing together in horsemanship. Seeing them smile as they accomplish something new."
Meet Kavondrea Swain. Kavondrea began working at AIDB's Alabama Instructional Resource Center for the Blind as a Processing Clerk before transitioning to her current position as a Braillist! As a Nemeth Braillist, she specializes in transcribing math and science into braille code."There's a lot that goes into transcribing braille. It can sometimes be tedious, but I love it!" said Kavondrea. "My favorite thing about my job is being able to help students who are blind or visually impaired across Alabama be in the position to learn with their sighted peers."
Meet Keri Lyn McDonald, Route Coordinator for AIDB's Transportation Department. We sat down with her to discuss what makes her feel the most accomplished or proud. Here's what she had to say!"I would say the thing that makes me feel most accomplished would be knowing that I am able to take part in making sure that our students at AIDB arrive safely to and from school. I enjoy working closely with all of our campuses and our awesome bus drivers!
The thing in this life that makes me the most proud is being a mom to my two precious babies!"
We caught up with Dr. Kristen DeLauney, Director of Audiology, to discuss the happiest moment of her life!“When my daughter Lela was born on February 26, 2020. We had a son who we had adopted from China in 2017. He had congenital heart disease and passed away. He would have loved being a big brother. The day Lela was born, there were rainbows outside our window. It was like Max was right there with us.”
Meet Linda Miller. Linda works as a Teachers Aide at Helen Keller School of Alabama. We sat down with her to discuss what makes life meaningful. Here's what she had to say!
“To me, it’s being happy. It’s being able to deal with the issues and chaos of life and still being happy. But it’s also being loving and kind to people. My family, grandchildren, and helping others make me the happiest. I worked at a nursing home for 17 years prior to working at AIDB. It’s really amazing to be here and see our students be as normal as I am. I always take positive stories of our students home to my husband. I mean it from the heart when I say I love it here. I should have been here a long time ago.”
Meet Marcus Washington, Case Manager for the Deaf at the Birmingham Regional Center. We recently sat down with him and asked what brought him the most joy. Here's what he had to say!“Lots of things! I’m a morning person. I’m always happy and motivated that it’s a new day. I have three kids. I also enjoy fishing, working out, walking, building cornhole boards, and going to the beach.”
Meet Mary Beth Grayson, Interpreter Coordinator for the Regional Early Acquisition of Language. We sat down to speak with her about what brings her the most joy. Here's what she had to say!"In my work here, connections with people, especially coming out of a space when it was difficult. The pandemic started in March (2020) and we moved here in April; I started at AIDB that August. We were in isolation for so long and a lot of virtual. Some of that shift to virtual is here to stay, but I enjoy meeting and connecting with new people in person. I’m enjoying meeting and interacting with the Deaf Community and other interpreters."
Meet Melody Brown, Psychometrist and Outreach Provider for Blind and Visually Impaired. We sat down with her to discuss what brings her the most joy. Here's what she had to say!
"What brings me the most joy is proclaiming to people the difference that can be made with intervention, seeing that intervention applied, and seeing the change that happens because of it. When I first meet people, they are on the outside looking in on their lives; they’re looking for hope. But, we get to walk through the intervention together and put them back into their own story. It gives them a sense of agency over their own life as they make their own way to a limitless future."
Meet Michael Taylor who works in production at Alabama Industries for the Blind. We sat down with him and asked what advice he would give his younger self. Here's what he had to say!"To begin with, I would tell myself to have patience!I recently became the Assistant Supervisor in the Alabama Industries for the Blind (AIB) Screenprint Department. I appreciate being able to create a sense of mentorship instead of this being “just” a workplace. About a year ago, a student from E. H. Gentry Facility who was about 20 years old started working in my department here at AIB. He was reserved and wasn’t confident in his orientation and mobility skills. So every day, we would work together on orientation, mobility, and getting to know the workspace. He now works in another department but it’s fulfilling to know that he’s in a place where he has made friends, smiles more, and is more confident."
Meet Michelle Staeck! A longtime volunteer at the AIDB Marianna Greene Henry Special Equestrian Program (MGH), she became the arena's Instructor Assistant in 2022.
"I initially volunteered at MGH while homeschooling my two children who were 12 and 14. We moved around a lot but were always involved with horses. So, MGH was the perfect match! It was the perfect place for my children to socialize and gain another perspective. My daughter, who works with the public now, recognizes certain traits because of her volunteer work with the students at Helen Keller School of Alabama. Volunteering at MGH improved her ability to work with others.
I'm absolutely thrilled to now be working as the Instructor Assistant! After making the decision to go back to work, I spoke with Kate (Storjohann) about looking for a job and she told me 'but there's a job for you at the arena!' After spending so much time as a volunteer, I hadn't even considered it. But it's a perfect fit! I love the people who work here and I love the volunteers. It doesn't feel like work. It's the best place to be and I enjoy spending my time here."
Meet Mike Chapa, Operation Coordinator for AIDB North Campus. We sat down with him to discuss what brings him the most joy."Oh wow. That’s easy. My wife and my daughter. My family to sum it up. I enjoy what I do and coming into work. But, I can’t wait to come home to my family."
Meet Morgan Posey, Job Developer at the AIDB Montgomery Regional Center. We sat down with her to talk about what makes work meaningful. Here's what she had to say!"My mom worked at AIDB while I was in college and is a big reason why I’m here today! I work in Job Development, assisting consumers who are deaf, blind, or deafblind to find employment. I'm a big advocate for finding your purpose because knowing what you want to do and the why behind it are important steps in helping you find your limitless potential. I like AIDB because it helps our consumers find the individualized roadmap designed to help get them to where they want to go."
Meet Patrick Smith, Systems Admin Manager and Interim Director of IT. We sat down with him to discuss the most influential person in his life. Here's what he had to say!"It really is hard for me to single out one person as the most influential. I have been lucky enough to have had many influential people throughout my life. From my parents teaching me life skills and responsibility to my aunt and uncle for leading me to Christ, my siblings for showing me how to persevere through adversity, my work family for sharing my passion for serving, and my wife and kids for showing me selfless love and support. I am thankful to have had so many positive influences throughout my life. I believe all have played a part in helping me strive to always be better, both at home and AIDB."
Meet Raymond Evans! Raymond is a Lead Security Officer at AIDB. We sat down with him to discuss the happiest moment of his life. Here's what he had to say!"Wow… Woah. That is a really good question… The day I married my wife, Joann. I think that would have to be it. The day my wife accepted me as her husband. She is the best woman I’ve ever met and I can not believe she’d want to spend the rest of her life with me."
We caught up with Rhonda Hale who works with AIDB's Child Nutrition Program on the Alabama School for the Deaf Campus and discussed what brings her the most joy!"That’s a big question. There are a lot of things. I like to make people laugh. Bring a smile to their face. I bake a lot. Baking brings out the joy in others. When I bake for others, the picture they had in their head comes to life. They’re excited and it makes me excited.Everyone is going through something. Some days are rough. But all it takes is for someone to slip in with a compliment and that makes a huge difference. My son is 15. He takes care of me and I take care of him. I always like to pass that along."
Meet AIDB's Warehouse Supervisor Robin Cooper! We sat down with him to talk about what makes him feel the most accomplished.
"One thing that gives me a true sense of accomplishment is watching AIDB students use the skills that they have learned during their work experience internship in the AIDB Central Warehouse. It is a wonderful feeling to have the opportunity to impart my knowledge and experience to students. It is uniquely rewarding to know that the training we provide will enrich a young person’s life and positively affect their future.
One of my proudest moments occurred a few years ago after I had trained a particular student for several months. This student came to us through E. H. Gentry Facility’s Work Experience program. He arrived with a positive attitude and an eagerness to learn but very little experience or exposure to a work environment. He was reluctant to even get into the seat of our forklift at first but after three months of instruction and practice, he had become a competent and confident forklift operator. By the end of the semester, he could safely use all of our logistical equipment, including the dock ramp and the lift gate on our truck. He learned to stack a pallet for optimum balance and stability, rotate stock, sweep, front shelves, and maintain a clean and orderly warehouse. When he finished his program at Gentry he went home to Huntsville. Armed with a new skill set and a letter of recommendation, he was hired as a stocker and forklift operator at Sam’s Club. About a year after he had graduated from Gentry I learned through his job coach that he had won the Employee of the Year Award from the Governor's Committee on Hiring People with Disabilities. That news put a smile on my face and a glow in my heart for quite a while."
Meet Rod Skene, Director of Services for the Blind at E. H. Gentry Facility. We asked him about the most influential person in his life. Here's what he had to say!“I would say, my wife. She retired from working with Orientation & Mobility at AIDB E. H. Gentry Facility. Throughout her career, and even now in retirement, she always puts students first. Even now, she works as a Driver and Aide in AIDB’s Transportation Department. Transportation can be a challenge for the blind community. And when someone has a need, she is the first to jump in and help.”Meet Sybil Garrett, Assistive Technology Specialist in E. H. Gentry Facility's DeafBlind Services! Working with ICanConnect, a federally-funded telecommunications distribution program for individuals with dual sensory loss, Sybil provides assessments, training, equipment, and support to individuals throughout the state of Alabama!"My favorite part of this job is that it's helping people. Using the technology every day to do tasks that most take for granted makes a big difference in the lives of the consumers we serve."
Meet Tristen Cox, Information Technology Technician at AIDB! We sat down with her to discuss what makes life meaningful."For me, it’s being able to take care of my family. When you don’t have to worry about it, that’s meaningful."
Meet Wendi Glass! Wendi works as a Program Coordinator at AIDB's RISE Autism, a program uniquely designed for students and individuals diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder and sensory loss. We sat down with her to discuss what advice she would give her younger self.
“To be more patient with myself. To learn and grow from allowing vulnerabilities to serve as learning opportunities. I’m too hard on myself; I get that a lot here (at AIDB). I would tell my younger self to take a step back and acknowledge growth.”