Brent Batron grew up in Portland, Maine where he lived until he attended the Independence Training Program at the Center in 2001. After his training, he moved back to Maine before returning to Colorado in 2004 to teach Cane Travel. He taught Travel until 2009 when he became Director of Youth Services. Brent served as President of the National Federation of the Blind of Denver from 2006 through 2013, and is currently Second Vice President of the NFB of Colorado. Brent and his beautiful wife Ena have 5 children; 3 boys and 2 girls, including twin boys.
Originally from the Phoenix area, Martin graduated from the Center in the spring of 2014 and worked that summer as a Summer Youth Counselor teaching Cane Travel. He was hired full-time as a fourth Travel Instructor at the Center later that year. Working with blind youth remains close to his heart though, and he has directed the Summer programs since 2016. He earned the National Orientation & Mobility Certification (NOMC) in 2018.
Dan Burke grew up in Colorado, but lived more than 30 years in Montana before moving south again to work at the Center. He served as President of the NFB of Montana for nine years and on the NFB’s Board of Directors for five years. In 1990 he earned a Master’s degree in Rehabilitation Counseling, after which he worked as a VR Counselor and at the Disability Services for Students office at the University of Montana. His last position at UM’s Disability Services was Assistant Director. In addition to being the Public Relations Specialist at the Center, Dan also teaches a college prep class for students bound for higher education.
“Working here brings together all the skills I have developed along the way with my deepest convictions and passions,” says Dan
Ann has been teaching art at the Colorado Center for the Blind since 1999 but her journey into tactile art began in the early 1990’s when she wondered if her bas (low) relief stone sculptures could be accessible to people who are blind through touch. It took years but the answer to that question is a resounding, “Yes!” Now students are exploring how perspective works and what tactile art can do that visual art simply cannot.
Ann works as a full time artist and has tactile art in collections all across the country and Canada. If you are in Santa Cruz, California, stop by Pleasure Point Park to see her three accessible bronze public-art panels on the cliffs overlooking the Pacific. If you find yourself in Des Moines, Iowa stop by the Department for Blind and check out the entire exhibit there. And of course if you are at the National Federation of the Blind Jernigan Institute in Baltimore, Maryland you can get your hands on the NFB Everest Expedition Exhibit. The Center commissioned Ann to do the Colorado Mountain Mural, which was installed in the Meeting Room for our 25th Anniversary Celebration in September, 2013.
Ann makes her home in Golden, Colorado with her
husband, Charlie. They have two wonderful daughters.
Julie Deden began working at the Colorado Center for the Blind in the fall of 1997 and became its Executive Director in March of 1999. She has thirteen years’ experience as a rehabilitation counselor with Colorado DVR and has served in many leadership positions with the National Federation of the Blind. She holds a master’s degree in counseling psychology. Julie has been blind since birth, and for several years she limited herself because of her blindness and her lack of belief and confidence in herself as a blind person. That is one of the reasons she is so passionate about working with students and others so that they will gain belief in themselves in order to live exciting, full lives. Julie says, “There is nothing more exhilarating than seeing a student complete an independent route or shop and prepare a meal. Each accomplishment that is made truly propels all of us towards freedom. I can never give back what I have received from the National Federation of the Blind and the Center!” Julie has a son and enjoys cooking, traveling and reading in her spare time.
Robert Dyson is a native of Colorado and has lived here most of his life. After losing his vision due to diabetes, he attended the Center in 1994 where he found that he could read again using Braille and technology and could travel anywhere with his long white cane. After graduation, Robert did an internship at the Department of Labor and was hired by Diners Club in 1996 and worked there for three years. He was hired at the Center in 2002 and has been here ever since. He loves the Center and feels it is wonderful to work in a place where you can see all the good that happens to people and their lives with a little skill training and also the re-building of their self-confidence in the process. He is grateful for how the Colorado Center changed his life completely and gave him the chance to make a life with respect and dignity.
Chip Johnson has been blind since birth. He got his BA in Spanish from the University of Illinois in 1989. Chip began using assistive technology in 1987 when he got his first IBM-compatible computer. He has been a technology instructor at the Center since 2000. He likes learning about new technology and finding creative ways to help students learn. When not at work, Chip enjoys reading, amateur radio and following local sports.
Anahit LaBarre is originally from Armenia and came to Colorado in 2001 as a student of the Colorado Center for the Blind. The Center gave her the confidence and knowledge to live independently. Anahit now works as a home teaching instructor for the Senior Services Program. She and her husband are raising two children and, as she says, “both of us are blind and we work through daily tasks as we go”. Giving back, watching lives change and being a big part of it makes her feel very lucky and happy.
Duncan Larsen is the Director of Senior Services for the Colorado Center for the Blind. She has a degree in Education from the University of Nebraska, graduating with honors. She was the first cane travel instructor for the Center when it opened in 1988 and has received National Orientation & Mobility Certification (NOMC) from the National Blindness Professional Certification Board. She also served on the Board of Directors of the Center for a number of years. Duncan has directed the Senior Services Program for over ten years and has designed it to help seniors remain independent and in their own homes. She is involved with the Center because she completely believes in the philosophy and is proud to be a part of its dynamic mission. Duncan is excited to work with the Center and really make a difference in the lives of blind people.
Ernesto was hired to teach Cane Travel in August, 2018 after completing an internship in preparation to take the final exam for the National Orientation & Mobility Certification (NOMC). Not only did Ernesto teach adults cane travel all day during the hot summer of 2018, by night he served as the Residential Counselor for three blind teenagers, teaching and guiding them in living in an apartment, planning, shopping and preparing the apartment’s meals, cleaning, doing their own laundry and also having some fun. He did this for 8 weeks and did it with kindness and conviction.
… More to come …
Monique Melton was born and raised in southeastern Virginia. She has been blind since birth as a result of glaucoma. She has a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science with a concentration in international relations. After graduating from college she received training at the Center. Before working here full-time she worked in two of the Center’s summer programs, at a Chamber of Commerce and at a workforce center. She taught Cane Travel from 2009 to 2016, when she became our Employment Specialist. Monique received National Orientation & Mobility Certification (NOMC) in 2010, and National Certification in Unified English Braille (NCUEB). In her spare time, she enjoys music, bowling, riding tandem bikes, and is very active in the NFB and the lives of her god-children.
David Nietfeld grew up ,in a rural town in southeast Arizona. Before coming to the Center, David led nature hikes on which he taught others about native desert plants, and is something of an expert on edible wild plants.
“I used to teach people how to walk around in the deserts,” mused David. “And then I taught them how to walk around the cities of Colorado.”
David first came to the Center in 2008 as a student and after graduation he was hired to teach Cane Travel. He holds the National Orientation & Mobility Certification (NOMC) and still asists in teaching travel students when needed. late 2017 David moved to the shop and began teaching Home Maintenance and Woodshop – “Everything from tightening up screws on hinges to running a power saw,” he says.
Carina graduated from the Center in April 2014 and worked the next summer in our Youth Program as a Home Management Instructor. A Southern California native, she was hired to teach Braille in the spring of 2015. Carina holds the National Certification in Unified English Braille (NCUEB) and is also attending Metro State of Denver University part-time.
Chris Parsons has been blind since birth as a result of Leber’s Congenital Amaurosis (LCA). Growing up in rural Missouri, she knew that she eventually wanted to live in a place where she could travel independently. After graduating from Webster University in 2010 with a degree in English, she worked there for a time as an Online Writing Specialist. She attended the Colorado Center for the Blind as a student in 2014. While at the center, she gained valuable blindness skills, but more importantly, she gained confidence and a belief in herself.
Chris started teaching technology at the center in March 2015. She enjoys listening to music and being a part of the NFB. She currently serves as vice president of the NFB Community Service Division, and one of her favorite activities every year is attending the annual NFB National Convention
Steve Patten has been a Cane Travel instructor at the Colorado Center for the Blind since 2011 and absolutely loves his job! He attended the Summer Program at the Center followed by the Independence Training Program. Steve then worked as a summer counselor. While a student at the Center, he gained confidence in his abilities as a blind person and also learned about his love for teaching and giving back to others. Originally from St. Louis, Missouri, Steve enjoys watching professional sports and loves skiing. As Steve says, “If it was not for the Center, I know that I would not be the person I am today”. Steve holds the National Orientation & Mobility Certification (NOMC).
Delfina Rodriguez hails from Tennessee. She grew up in the Chattanooga area, and later lived and worked near Nashville. She became blind on March 1, 2010 as a result of complications of diabetes.
When the surgeries and treatments failed, Delfina sat in the rocking chair on her parents’ front porch for a while. However, this wasn’t destined to last for a woman who still says that she loves to travel, snow board and would love to bungee-jump off a bridge. Through friends, she eventually learned about the Colorado Center for the Blind and decided that’s where she needed to go.
With the support of friends in the National Federation of the Blind, she got here in the fall of 2012. She graduated in 2013 and after subbing in Home Management that fall, she joined the Home Management team permanently as our third instructor.
Teaching wasn’t new to Delfina. In her working life prior to becoming blind, she was sought out as a trainer. She says she loves to see the transformation that takes place in students as they work in the kitchen.
“It’s exciting to work with a student who comes in afraid of using the gas stove, for example,” she says, “and by the time they graduate they prefer to cook with gas.”
One of the most important things to know about Delfina – and the first thing she’ll reveal when asked about herself – is a passion for antiquing. In particular, she collects colored-glass goblets – all colors, styles and vintages.
Vicki is a native of Ponca City, Oklahoma. She graduated from the Independence Training Program in January, 2016 and worked as a live-in nanny for a cute little guy named Mason until starting as our Residential Manager on August 1. MOre to come to this story!
Dishon “Shon” Spears was born in Los Angeles, California and has a twin brother named Divon. Dishon and his brother were diagnosed with Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP) in 1996 and, after high school, Dishon received blindness skills training to become an independent person. Following that, he attended Louisiana Tech University where his focus was in Psychology and Elementary Education. Dishon has worked for RTD and the Business Enterprise Program in addition to previously working in several areas at the Center including the summer youth program and as residential manager. Currently, Dishon is a Home Management instructor at the Center. He met his wife at the Center in 2010 and they married in 2012. Dishon works hard to insure that the students he is teaching leave with a great feeling of accomplishment and confidence as well as their newly found independence. Dishon’s interests include collecting die-cast model cars, cooking, and working out.
Jennifer Spears holds the National Certification in Unified English Braille (NCUEB) and has been working as a Braille instructor at the Colorado Center for the Blind since 2010. She is a graduate of the Center and worked as a volunteer coordinator and assistant for two BELL programs at the National Center for the Blind in Baltimore, Maryland. She met her husband at the Center in 2010 and married in 2012. Jen enjoys swimming, reading and singing and has been involved in Denver area musical productions.
Carol Sprague has lived most of her life in Colorado. She graduated with a bachelor’s degree from Metropolitan State College and worked in public schools for many years. Carol began employment as the Administrative Coordinator at the Center in 2001. Her work has great variety including human resources, contracts, and conventions but mostly she enjoys working directly with students. Carol’s interests include traveling with her husband, visiting with family and friends, reading, and playing tennis. Together, Carol and her husband have four wonderful children.
Yolanda came to the Center as a volunteer in our Senior Program teaching technology. Retired as a Tech Instructor for the New Mexico Commission for the Blind, she soon agreed to devote three days a week teaching in the ITP program – but only on the condition that she be allowed to continue to work with seniors on Tuesday mornings.