Outstanding Teacher of Students who are Blind/Visually Impaired with Additional Disabilities

Julie Lemman

  • Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired

Julie was born and raised in Austin, Texas, where she resides with her husband, daughter, and cat. From an early age, Julie has always had a strong interest in child growth and development. In 2012, she graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and Early Childhood Intervention from Texas State University. In August 2013, she began working at the Texas School for the Blind as a Residential Instructor and went on to become a Classroom Teacher in 2017. Julie has 8 years of experience working with students with multiple disabilities, including students who are DeafBlind. Julie has her M.Ed. in Special Education with a focus in Visual Impairment from Texas Tech Unversity, and a graduate certificate for Teacher of Students who are DeafBlind. She is passionate about her work and enjoys deepening her understanding of teaching social-emotional learning for students who are DeafBlind and students with multiple disabilities. She has contributed articles to Paths to Literacy and presented at the 2021 Texas DeafBlind Education Symposium. Julie is currently taking one year off from her career to dedicate herself to raising her newborn daughter, Theia. She continues to be an active member of AER and a committee member with NFADB.


Outstanding Teacher of Students who are Blind/Visually Impaired

Gina Fugate

  • The Maryland School for the Blind

Gina Fugate is a Lego Engineering & Technology Teacher at Maryland School for the Blind. She has 15 years of teaching experience, including teaching students who are blind and visually impaired in a public school setting in Appalachia. Gina is a first generation college graduate and began her teaching journey focused on high school English. After learning about her own eye condition, Gina earned her M.Ed. in Special Education with an emphasis on Visual Disabilities from Vanderbilt University. She is a self-described lifetime learner and has acquired other specialities, which includes finding her way to computer science, accessibility, and assistive technology. Gina co-coaches the DOT5UDOGS and 180 Optimum using Quorum Lego Robotics for First Lego League. She is an active member of the Curriculum Committee for the Quorum Programming Language. She is also co-teaching AP Computer Science Principles for the Virtual Co-op via the Council of Schools for the Blind.


Outstanding Residential Life Staff Member

Daniel Butler

  • Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired

Daniel Butler was born and raised in northern Iowa.  After high school he attended Iowa Central Community College and studied broadcasting.  Upon completion of that program Daniel moved to Chicago and began a tour booking and management business for bands and solo artists.  In 1998 he returned to college at the University of Iowa where he studied critical media studies.  Upon graduating, Daniel moved to San Francisco and worked for a record promotion company. Daniel moved to Austin in 2006 and worked for a while with a myriad of local non-profit arts organizations.  In 2010 he was hired by the Texas Legislative Council and worked as a Data Transcription Technician during the 2011 legislative session.

Daniel began working at the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired in September of 2011 as a substitute.  In February of 2012 he was hired to work as a Residential Instructor in their residential program.  From 2012 – 2015 he worked with high school boys.  Beginning in 2015, and continuing to the present Daniel has worked with junior high and high school boys teaching daily living skills.  He continues to live in Austin with his longtime partner Melanie and their two cats.


Outstanding Related Services Provider

Sara Reuss

  • Nebraska Center for the Education of the Blind

Sara is a shining star, a passionate leader, and a never-ending advocate for students with visual impairments. Sara has been employed at ESU4/Nebraska Center for the Education of Children Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired (NCECBVI) since 2012.  Before 2012, she served as a volunteer and a substitute before joining NCECBVI full time in 2012 as a houseparent in the dormitory and later became a Certified Orientation and Mobility Specialist in 2017 as well as a Certified Low Vision Therapist in 2019 from Salus University. Sara completed her internships around the country at the Helen Keller National Center on Long Island at the center and in the community programs as well as the Edward Hines, Jr. VA Hospital in Chicago affording her a very diverse knowledge of skills and techniques.

Sara serves students statewide in Nebraska. She is also a certified MANDT trainer, helps to organize the Nebraska Cane Quest, helps to organize and provides services at the NCECBVI Low Vision Clinic, along with numerous other activities. Sara is also the acting secretary in the Nebraska AER Chapter and has taught a cane technique course and had input in the University of Nebraska at Lincoln Orientation and Mobility Program.


Outstanding Provider of Outreach Services

Jim Olson

  • Colorado School for the Deaf and the Blind

Outstanding Paraprofessional

James Bristol 

  • Colorado School for the Deaf and the Blind

James Bristol was born in Meriden CT in 1956; students always seem amazed to hear that we only had 48 stars on the flag back then! He grew up in California, Louisiana, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, and New York. These frequent relocations resulted in strong bonds with his siblings. As an adult James had a short career in law enforcement before settling into the education field. He has worked for the Colorado School for the Deaf and the Blind as a Special Education Technician in the residential program and as a teacher’s aide in the educational programs. Over the years he has served as running club coach, bowling coach, and as a National Archery in the Schools Program certified instructor. During the off season, he spent 14 summers supervising day camp programs for special needs children with the city of Colorado Springs Therapeutic Recreation Department. He is active with the Knights of Columbus and his church. During his free time he enjoys reading, archery, and canoeing.

James was married in 1977 and has 3 grown daughters, and 4 granddaughters. He was widowed in 2020.


COSB Champion Award

Braille Institute

Braille Challenge is the only academic competition of its kind held in January through March each year for students who are blind or visually impaired. Braille Institute developed Braille Challenge to motivate students to practice and hone their braille literacy skills, which are essential to academic and employment success.

Cane Quest is a challenging orientation and mobility contest for students in grades 3-12. There are several Cane Quest regional events across the country and the contestants are divided into three categories; Scouts: grades 3 to 6, Explorers: grades 7 to 9 and Trailblazers: grades 10 to 12. Contestants are given auditory instructions and challenged to safely complete secret routes in their community or college campus using proper travel techniques and appropriate cane skills. Scout contestants team up with a sighted adult and earn coins as they navigate a route that demonstrates mastery of basic orientation and mobility skills and proper sighted guide techniques, within the boundaries of a school or agency.