The President and CEO of Allied Instructional Services received her bachelor’s degree in vision disabilities with a dual certification in Vision Impairments and Orientation and Mobility from Florida State University (FSU). She continued at FSU to receive her Master’s degree in special education with a concentration in emotional disabilities and learning disabilities. She has been working in the field of blindness/vision impairments and education for the past 25 years and has been privately contracting services for the past 17 years. During her years as an educator, she has been a mentor teacher for student teachers/interns and first-year teachers, and she has been employed as an Internship Supervisor for the Vision Program at George Mason University and James Madison University. She is a Past President of the Virginia Association for the Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Vision Impaired and has served on the Membership Committee at the National Level. She is dedicated to ensuring that all students receive the appropriate educational services that they need to succeed. Karen began Allied Instructional Services in 2010 with the intention to expand her offering of services to the following service areas: Vision, Orientation and Mobility, Deaf and Hard of Hearing, Occupational Therapy, Physical Therapy, and Interpreters. Karen has built a leadership staff that has expertise in the above respective areas.
As Senior Vice President of Business with Allied Instructional Services, Chris Martin has 25 plus years of experience as an educator. He has a degree in both education and business. As an educator, he has been both a teacher and school administrator. He has experience in intellectual disabilities, autism, emotional disabilities, learning disabilities, and vision impairments. Since 2003, Mr. Martin has been serving education through the business world. In the business world, he has experience in educational technology, Medicaid, data analysis, and staffing school divisions with professional educators/therapists. He has a strong working relationship with many special education directors, assistant superintendents, and superintendents. He understands budgets and budgetary constraints in school divisions, therefore works to create a cost effective solution for each of his educational partners. He works with school divisions until a full solution of staffing is acquired for each of his school divisions in each of the states.
The Vice President of Educational Services, Karen Vay Walker, graduated from Lynchburg College with a bachelor’s degree in Special Education. She comes to AIS with 30 years experience in the education field. Her career began in Richmond City Schools, serving children that she believed would benefit from a multi-team approach. While there she was pivotal in creating and securing federal funds for a program called Project Enhance that focused on serving children from a three-tiered approach. Later, she simultaneously pursued a degree in Vision Impairments from UVA and Early Childhood Special Education from VCU. Besides serving as a classroom teacher, an Itinerant Vision Therapist and Developmental Specialist, she was the Program Director and Local System Manager for the Infant and Toddler Connection of Hanover for 15 years. During this time, Karen worked closely with state and local personnel to establish mandated private insurance and Medicaid billing and led state training for Part C implementation of cost agreement fees. She led and supervised a team committed to serving families and facilitated continual training that enhanced her staff’s ability to meet the growing and changing needs in the educational field. Karen utilizes her experience from this role to support AIS’s vision in staffing top-notch educators to meet the needs of local school systems and their students.
Mary Hall graduated from St. Bonaventure University with a Bachelor’s of Business Administration. For the past eight years she has worked for Hanover County Public Schools as the Medicaid Account Specialist. She worked closely with occupational, physical and speech therapists to improve their Medicaid reimbursement, growing Hanover’s program by over 500%. In addition, she was able to build a partnership with private insurance companies to institute billing capabilities for Early Intervention Services for the Infant and Toddler Connection of Hanover. While in Hanover she served on the board for the National Alliance for Medicaid in Education in multiple capacities ranging from conference planning, to regional representative, membership chair, and finally treasurer. She also presented at state wide trainings for the VA Department of Education. Since graduating from college, Mary has served on many volunteer boards as treasurer.
Cheryl Sale is a certified Audiologist and Teacher of the Deaf/Hard of Hearing. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Speech-Language Pathology and a Masters degree in Habilitative Audiology from the University of Virginia. She has worked in clinical settings, including UVA Medical Center and Pratt Medical Center, as an audiologist and as a hearing aid specialist. In addition, Cheryl has many years of experience in working in public school systems as a Teacher of the Deaf/Hard of Hearing, Educational Audiologist, and Director of Hearing Impaired Programs.
Meredith Shockley received her Bachelor of Art degree from Gardner Webb University in American Sign Language and minored in interpreting. She then pursued her Masters degree from University of Minnesota in Special Education with a focus on Deaf education. A few years ago, she went back to school to get her Visual Impairments certification. She has taught American Sign Language classes, Deaf/hard of hearing self-contained classes, and itinerant teaching. She is also an EIPA nationally certified interpreter. In her spare time, Meredith enjoys performing in theatre productions and traveling.
Whitney Carter has a Doctorate of Physical Therapy (DPT) from Elon University. In addition, she has a Certified Weight Training Certification (CWT) and is a Certified Clinical Instructor by the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA CI). Her undergraduate degree was obtained at Ferrum College, where she also played softball during her four year tenure. While attending Elon, she was the recipient of Best Overall Student Award which required excellent academic achievement, leadership skills, and outstanding clinical performance. She has always been interested in the pediatric field which spurred her interest in leading a children’s exercise group at the local YMCA every Saturday free of charge. She knows how challenging it can be to incorporate physical activity into a daily routine and strongly believes movement and education must be partners for all children to succeed. Good teamwork can overcome any obstacles and every child is capable of great things!
Sarah Bussey is a Certified Orientation & Mobility Specialist, Certified Teacher of Students with Vision Impairments and Certified Vision Rehabilitation Therapist. She earned her undergraduate degree in Vision Disabilities from Florida State University and her two Master’s Degrees in Orientation & Mobility and Vision Rehabilitation Therapy from Hunter College CUNY. Over the past 9 years, Sarah has worked with state agencies, non-profits, and school districts to provide vision services to their consumers. She has taken the opportunity to work with both children and adults with vision impairments and to teach them how to thrive in their home, school and community environments. Sarah enjoys working alongside her colleagues with the goal of sharing professional experiences and teaching techniques which take students to the next level.
Kristen Lavergne graduated from the University of Northern Colorado with her Master of Arts in Special Education: Severe Needs Vision. She went on to the Pennsylvania College of Optometry to obtain her Master of Science in Orientation and Mobility. She has been a teacher of Students with Vision Impairments and a Certified Orientation and Mobility Specialist for over 15 years. She began her career in Academy District Twenty in Colorado Springs, Colorado until she moved to Virginia in October 2008. For the next four years she worked for Pulaski County Public Schools as an Itinerant Teacher of the Blind and Vision Impaired. In the fall of 2012, Kristen accepted a contract as a service provider for AIS and accepted the position as a Vision Services Coordinator in 2013. She has continued her involvement with training and presenting in her membership with AER.
Gwyn Suttell has been a Teacher of the Blind and Vision Impaired and certified Orientation and Mobility Specialist for over 15 years. Gwyn received her BS in Education and Vision Impairments from Kutztown University and her MS in O & M from Salus University. Her career began in Rockingham County. Gwyn had the opportunity to work at the Virginia School for the Deaf and Blind (VSDB-S) as their Orientation and Mobility specialist and goalball coach. Later she moved back to her position as TVI with Rockingham County schools where she also served on their assistive technology team until 2013. In 2013, Gwyn was given the opportunity to serve Allied Instructional Services as one of the Lead Teachers of the Blind and Vision Impaired. Allied Instructional Services is able to afford her the opportunity to work with more students with blindness and vision impairments across Virginia and use her years of experience to mentor other Teachers of the Blind and Vision Impaired. Gwyn is also a member of AER and utilizes every opportunity to enhance her knowledge of vision impairments.
Alex Olson graduated from The Florida State University with a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in Visual Disabilities. She is a certified Teacher of the Vision Impaired and her passion is teaching braille and the Expanded Core Curriculum. Alex first taught in Kansas City, MO at Children’s Center for the Visually Impaired, a private non-profit for children with visual impairments. Upon returning to Florida in 2010, Alex worked at The Florida School for the Deaf and Blind for 7 years. She taught Kindergarten, Braille Resource, and Fourth grade. She was also the Ski Club Sponsor for the Blind High School. Alex enjoys working with philanthropic organizations within the Saint Augustine community. She enjoys working as a team to develop services for students who are blind/vision impaired to help make them as independent as possible. She resides in Saint Augustine with her husband and dogs.
Chelsey received her Bachelor’s of Science in Psychology at Radford University and her Master’s of Occupational Therapy at Virginia Commonwealth University. During her educational and professional experiences, Chelsey has worked in a variety of settings and with people of all ages. She has experience working with clients in the public school setting, skilled nursing facilities, outpatient rehabilitation, early intervention and a pediatric private practice. Chelsey has experience working with children with autism, down syndrome, attention deficit disorder, developmental delay, developmental coordination disorder, sensory processing disorder, and auditory processing disorder. She enjoys working with children of all ages and abilities through direct one-on-one services and social skills play groups to help them maximize their independence in activities of daily living and self-help skills. She enjoys spending time with family and friends, going to the beach, scrapbooking, and is an active member/volunteer at Area 10 Faith Community.
Heidi has over 30 years of experience as a licensed and certified Speech-Language Pathologist. She completed her undergraduate studies in Speech and Hearing Sciences with a minor in Audiology at Rutgers University and received her Master’s of Science Degree in Speech-Language Pathology from James Madison. Over the course of her 30-year career she has worked with a diverse population of children and adults in acute care, inpatient/outpatient rehabilitation, home health, public and private school settings and in private practice. She has a great deal of knowledge in the diagnosis and treatment processes of children with autism, apraxia of speech, severe language and communication disorders, language-based literacy disorders, social and pragmatic language delays as well as swallowing and feeding disorders. She has been specifically trained in the Greenspan Floortime Approach, Zones of Regulation, the Beckman Oral Motor Program, Oral Placement Therapy and the Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS). She furthered her AAC knowledge by performing evaluations and treating in a multidisciplinary approach, developed AAC and AT programs in the school setting, and trained staff in the use and implementation of AAC in the classroom. She works diligently with colleagues and families to ensure that every child has a voice.
Dawn Zepernick received her Bachelor’s of Science in Information Systems from Strayer University. She is a certified by the Library of Congress as a Braille Transcriber and is proficient in Unified English Braille. Over the past 14 years, she worked for the Virginia Department for the Blind and Vision Impaired (DBVI) as an Information Technology Specialist/Braille Unit Manager. During her time with DBVI, she worked with, and was exposed to, various types of assistive technologies. She enjoys working with individuals who are blind and vision impaired to assist them in becoming more independent in their school, home, and community. She enjoys training by sharing her love of assistive technology with others.
Julie Akers graduated from Radford University with a Bachelor’s of Science in Business Marketing. She has been working in the field of Blindness and Low Vision selling Assistive Technology since 2009. Julie has worked with state agencies, non-profits, and school districts to provide low-vision and blindness products to their consumers as well as individuals. She has taken the opportunity to work with both children and adults with visual impairments and to teach them how to thrive in their home, school and community environments using these devices. She is passionate about this line of work as it allows her to facilitate independence in the lives of others.