OTC Newsletter Winter 2014



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Career in Review: Looking Back with Keiko Namekata

By Mary Lorenz, OTC Instructor

I had a chance recently to sit down and talk with Keiko Namekata, Orientation and Training Center Program Manager, who will be retiring on December 19, 2014.

We have worked together for almost 30 years. I asked her if a young girl—who was born in Hiroshima, came to the US when she was 11, and spoke little English—ever dreamed that one day she would be a role model (and very influential person) for other people who are blind in the state of Washington? She said “No! When you’re young, you don’t know what other people really see. You just assume everyone is seeing the same until you start having problems.”

Keiko came to DSB in 1980 as a field Rehabilitation Teacher in King County, with Rosemary Gallagher and Arija Vanags. At the time, she mostly worked on homemaker cases, or with those who had skills’ training needs but who were not intending to go to work. Then she was laid off for budgetary reasons and went to work for what is now SightConnection.

In July of 1984, she became a Rehabilitation Teacher at the OTC and taught Braille, keyboarding, and vocational exploration class until December of 1988. At that point, she became the Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor (VRC) for the counties north of King County. From 1990 to 1994, Keiko was the Independent Living (IL) Service Delivery Coordinator, working with John Olson, where she took applications for IL services, trained service providers, did case reviews, and made home visits as well.

Then, in 1994, Keiko became the Program Manager at the Orientation and Training Center. “The goal was to make the program teach the actual skills for independence,” she said. “We started the Work Experience program with Bronson Goo on a project basis and offered computer skills with Dan Tonge. The focus switched to getting people work ready.”

At first students lived in a dormitory, which was good for its time. But the willingness to house the students in apartments became a reality in 1998. “That gave us a real environment where people could apply learned skills.” Keiko said. Then adding more intense career classes, switching to a term system, and adding on milestones gave the OTC a way to chart progress, she said.

“The challenge is how to run a structured program but allow students to achieve their individual needs and to keep the program running forward,” Keiko commented, when asked what some of her biggest challenges were. “Students come and go with different sets of challenges, and lots of other disabilities. These issues are being more recognized now, whereas before they weren’t,” she commented.

“You learn more as you age,” said Keiko. She said that when she first got her Masters in Public Administration, she thought she “knew it all.” Then as time went on, she said she realized that she didn’t know as much as she thought but also learned that things didn’t need to be perfect as long as the bigger things were moving along.

“The details will then fall in place,” she said. “If not, it wasn’t that important in the first place!” She also said that she has learned that you can’t treat all people the same if you want success. “You must listen to them and hear how they would handle things. Let them try things and see what works and what doesn’t. Give them the facts and see how they work it out.”

Retirement will be a big step for her, Keiko said. “I am just begin-ning to realize that this is happening,” she said. “When you work for 30-plus years, this is your life. I will miss the routine and being a part of the solutions, like being a part of people’s growth. I love working and being productive,” she mused.

“This job gives you the most satisfaction,” she said. “Some teaching, some mentoring, talking with the students.” But she emphatically said she will not miss the scheduling of classes each term and she hates paperwork!

The first day of retirement Keiko said she plans to be in bed until noon! She would like to travel a bit: to Japan or Europe, cruise the Mediterranean, visit all the National parks, and even clean out the house. And maybe she will volunteer.

Enjoy retirement, Keiko! We will all miss you and are looking forward to postcards from your upcoming travels. Bon voyage!

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Coming Back to DSB

By Julie Brannon, OTC Program Manager

“We’re interested in hiring you for the OTC Program Manager position.”

This call came in August of this year: I came running in from a yoga class, heard the phone ringing in my office, and these were the words I heard from deputy director Michael MacKillop. I stood in silence, trying to absorb what had just happened, and finally found my voice to say, “I’m pleased and very honored.”

And why very honored? At the time, I was employed at the OTC for 11 years as a part-time Braille instructor, career class instructor, and internship program coordinator. The 11 years of working closely with a huge variety of students, particularly in regard to their vocational aptitudes, interest and future career plans led me to understand I was truly involved in my ultimate career passion.

This career came after several years of working as a social worker for Children’s Protective Services (CPS)—a logical step for me after receiving my master’s degree in social work. In this job, I put all my efforts in to assuring good initial decisions were made in regard to the immediate needs of children in crisis situations—and since, I worked in the crisis unit of CPS—assisting families in navigating the social services systems. But, I knew all along this wasn’t my passion.

In 1994, a computer instructor at the OTC called to tell me an interim Braille instructor was needed part time while the current braille instructor took leave. Amazingly, Children’s Protective Services let me work for the OTC part time. I ended up continuing to teach intermittently part time at both the Lighthouse for the Blind, Inc. and the OTC, with the rest of the time continuing as a social worker for CPS, until I left that job in 2009.

In 2011, I left DSB to take a program management position at the Lighthouse for the Blind, Inc., managing an employee support services program. I did this, along with coordinating their Braille training program, until that call came in August. I value what I learned in those three years working at the Lighthouse. Now, can’t help but feel it was an excellent training ground for readying me for the pinnacle of my career: working with the program where my heart and passion lie—seeing persons in various stages of vision loss grow, change, and thrive as blindness skills are learned and vocational plans are worked toward.

So, you can see why there was a moment of silence from me after hearing the job offer. It truly felt like all my previous education and careers had led to this exciting new venture, working with the people and for the program and agency I admire most. I have a lot to learn, but challenge and adventure have always been an aspect of my persona which is a key in my being completely satisfied. Thank you DSB for the chance to “come back.”

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INTRODUCING: Carrie Lampel

By Carrie Lampel, Instructor

As a child, I had never met a person who was blind. Consequently, in school, I was not exposed to a Teacher of Students with Visual Impairments (TVI). Little did I realize then, that as an adult, I would not only experience blindness, but I would also become a TVI!

Several years after I was diagnosed with a retinal condition, I attended DSB’s Orientation and Training Center. There, I learned blindness skills which changed virtually every aspect of my life. My VRC, the OTC manager, and the instructors inspired me to not only learn the skills of blindness, but also return to college. I earned my master’s degree in Special Education and pursued certification as a TVI. The ensuing process was a challenge, but it felt good to regain my independence and have a dream about a bright future.

While I was in college, I worked at the OTC in various capacities, including those of volunteer, intern, and contractor. After my graduation from Portland State University, I was hired as a full-time Rehabilitation Teacher. I currently teach English as a Second Language (ESL), Literacy Skills, Careers, and Seminar Class. In addition, I coordinate the Capstone Student Projects, which are similar to the senior projects many students complete in high school.

I am delighted to be able to “give back” to the students at the OTC. My dream is to see each and every one achieve his or her vocational and personal goals. What could be more fun than that?!

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The Washington Department of Services for the Blind’s Orientation and Training Center (OTC) provides adults with comprehensive training in the alternative skills of blindness. The OTC develops the whole person through a highly-interactive facility and program that provides students with a foundation skills that lead to employment.

All opinions expressed in this newsletter are those of the individual authors.

For more information on the Orientation and Training Center, email us at info@dsb.wa.gov, or call 800-552-7103.