President’s Corner

Thank you all who came to our 47th Biennial UAD Conference. It was a success! We’re getting lots of positive feedback about the conference and how everyone really appreciated having Wayne Betts, Jr. as the keynote speaker and we learned a lot! He focused a lot on Deaf Ecosystem and it got us thinking about how we can do that better here in Utah.

As for the last two years, it was definitely a rollercoaster but in a good way.  Every twists and turns presented us with challenges but it provided us opportunities to band together and think of ways to succeed. We learned a lot the last two years especially with being thrown into the political scene due to a mistake Vocational Rehabilitation made by overspending millions of dollars which started the chain reaction of moving USOR (Utah State Office of Rehabilitation) under DWS (Department of Workforce Services).  We were also able to meet with Mia Love’s team to talk about a couple different bills that’s being discussed in Congress. We also went to Utah Board of Education to support the recognition of Masters of Deaf Education through ASL endorsement to the teacher’s license. Here below are some of the accomplishments of the last two years.

    • Changed “Hearing Impaired” to “Deaf and Hard of Hearing” throughout the Utah State law codes
    • Facebook page skyrocketed to over 3,500 viewers
    • Developed a bigger social media presence and created over 8 videos during deaf awareness month last year
    • Hosted two Deafhood 101 workshops and more to come!
    • Fundraised $4,937
    • UAD Membership fee simplified to just $10 per person per year
    • Hosted 11 events and 6 fundraisers in the last 2 years
    • Created an online folder of all UAD Bulletins for everyone to have access to and read
    • Attended NAD conference in Phoenix, Arizona
    • Initiated a neutral taskforce to investigate whether it’s best for Division of Services for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing to stay or not stay under Department of Workforce Services
    • Worked with Utah DMV to change “Hearing Impaired” to “Deaf” on driver licenses so people can choose that if desired
    • In the past 2 years, our membership numbers increased by 30%
    • Changed our bylaws to reflect hosting UAD conferences in SLC every 4 years where the core members of our deaf community live

After the vote at the UAD Conference we got ourselves a new UAD Board for 2017-2019 term.  Three of them are new to the board this year. Here’s the list of who’s on the board – Stephen Persinger (President), Adam Janisieski (Vice President), Philippe Montalette (Treasurer), Erin Kelly (Secretary), Pamela Mower (Member at Large), Ashli-Marie Grant (Member at Large), Greg Jones (Member at Large), Brandon Bowden (Member at Large) and Mary Beth Baierl (Member at Large).

This looks to be a great team and I am excited to be working with all of them. Thank you to all UAD members who are supporting us. We’ll have an UAD Board retreat in December and we’ll develop an action plan based on feedback from the community. From that, we will develop a list of goals and priorities to focus on for the next two years.

If you’re interested in becoming a member for just $10 a year, please click on this link to fill out the form and pay online.  Good news- we no longer require a PayPal account to pay online!

If you have any questions, ideas, feedback or suggestions – you are always free to contact me at  🙂

Stephen Persinger
UAD President

UAD Conference Chairperson’s Corner

Pamela Mower

As you may know, our UAD Conference was on September 22-23, 2017 and it was successful! From surveys collected, all attendees indicated that they enjoyed the conference!

Our conference keynote speaker was Wayne Betts, Jr!! He gave an inspiring presentation regarding Deaf Ecosystem and challenged us to look at how we can support Deaf businesses more.

We’d like to thank all of our workshop speakers who did a great job!


  • Ben Jarashow
  • Dr. Dan Hoffman and Katie Maxwell
  • David Davenport
  • Dawn Duran and Dr. Dan Hoffman
  • Jodi Kinner
  • Katie Voss
  • Michelle Tanner and Philippe Montalette
  • Sandy Scott
  • Stephanie Mathis, Sari Williams & Erin Kelly
  • Wayne Betts, Jr.

Our partnerships with the following organizations below were successful-

Utah Schools for the Deaf – We really enjoyed the videos created of USD children showing their ASL talents!

Utah Deaf Nite – Many deaf people gathered at the Utah Deaf Nite to catch up on news and meet each other so that was fun.

Coffee Night Out – coffee along with bagels, fruits, etc. were provided. 

Sego Lily Center for Abused Deaf – Their gala was a huge success and they were able to raise a lot of money to support their services and goals.

We also had the privilege of seeing 4 awards being presented to the following individuals:

President’s Award was presented to ASL Communication to recognize their involvement with the Deaf community and many ways they’ve showed support of us.

Golden Hand Awards were presented to the following individuals for their advocacy of our deaf community and our needs :

  • Justin Andersen
  • Marilyn Call
  • Joene Nicolaisen
  • Stephanie Mathis

Last but not the least, I want to thank our UAD Board for their hard work in preparing for this conference. Thank you!

  • Laurie Bishop
  • Sari Williams
  • Greg Jones
  • Brandon Bowden
  • Stephen Persinger
  • Ashli-Marie Grant
  • Philippe Montalette
  • Patricia Lowry
  • Roberta Dunlap

Thank you all for attending our UAD Conference and we hope to see more of you at our next conference!

New 2017-2019 UAD Board

Rear:  Stephen Persinger, Adam Janisieski, Philippe Montalette, Brandon Bowden, MaryBeth Baierl, Greg Jones

Front: Erin Kelly, Ashli-Marie Grant, Pamela Mower

To a Higher Glory

July 11, 2017 – Robert Fletcher passed away at the age of 85. During the Berlin Crisis, Robert was called to active duty. After his service, he finished his education with a masters in fine art. His career reflected a love of teaching. He taught art at Mt. Ogden Jr. High, and he worked for the Utah Schools for the Deaf and Blind. He went into private practice to helping children and adults with learning disabilities, using his own innovative and artistic approach. Funeral and interment took place in Ogden.

August 5, 2017 – Art Valdez passed away at the age of 85 in Holladay. He attended the Colorado and Utah Schools for the Deaf and graduated from Carbon High School, in Price.  Art was a proud member of the Utah deaf community. He developed a family of friends at the Sanderson Community Center for the Deaf and was a leader in many groups and associations for the deaf and hard of hearing. His funeral took place in the church that he attended, St. Catherine of Siena Catholic Church in Salt Lake City.

August 11, 2017 – Jay A. Barker passed away in Manti where he had resided for many years. He taught at the Utah School for the Deaf. He is survived by his sister and brother in law Kleda and Bill Quigley of Murray.

August 24. 2017 – My-Luong Thi Nguyen, 57,  passed away after a long struggle with cancer. She was born in Saigon, Vietnam. My-Luong enjoyed playing cards and watching the Food Network, and enjoyed traveling, getting away to see the world, and had hoped to return to Vietnam for a visit.

August 31, 2017 – Tom Starkey, 62, passed away. Although born in West Virginia, he attended Utah School for the Deaf. A memorial service was held in Ogden.

October 9, 2017 – Richard Kunkel, 70, passed away peacefully. He was active in BACA (Bikers against Child Abuse Utah). A memorial service was held in Santaquin

News of Note

The five daughters of Carol Masich hosted a 90th birthday celebration on September 15.  It was held in the LDS Second Ward. Finger foods were served to friends and family members.

Her actual birthdate is September 20.  Her daughters are Maureen, Kathleen (Kathy), Melodee, Karen and Stephanie. Carol lives with Kathy.

Carol’s progeny includes 12 grandchildren and 11 great grandchildren, with a new great granddaughter on the way.

Senior Citizens View Solar Eclipse

Valerie Kinney

A group of 23 senior citizens traveled to the University of Utah Library on August 21, 2017 to witness the solar eclipse.  They were among thousands of people outside of the library.  The library gave out glasses specially for witnessing the solar eclipse.

Nellie Sausedo commented that when the solar eclipse happened, there was a noticeable drop in temperature; after the event, the temperature rose to where it had been before.

Afterwards, senior citizens went to Chuck-a-Rama on 4th South near 7th East in Salt Lake City and enjoyed a meal and conversation with friends.

Sanderson Center Celebrates 25 Years of Service

Valerie Kinney

Nearly five hundred friends – deaf and hard of people, interpreters, teachers, staff members – were in attendance on September 8, 2017 to celebrate 25 years of service by Sanderson Community Center for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing. The evening started with a dinner, followed by a program.  Marty McFly and Doctor Brown from the Blast from the Past movie, acted out a time line from 1946 to present, with Aaron Bullock and Martin Price, respectively, in the iconic roles.

Marilyn Call, whose career began the same year the Sanderson Community Center for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, was honored during the program.  The conference room has been renamed Marilyn T. Call Conference Room.  Marilyn was presented with a dozen red roses and a plaque commemorating the renaming of the conference room.

Mitch Jensen was noted for his long service at the community service.  Also honored were Jodi Kinner and Valerie Kinney, for their work on documenting history of Utah deaf individuals and events.  They were presented with bouquets.

Marilyn will retire at the end of this year. She has worked for the Center as long as the Center is old – 25 years. Joene Nicolaisen and Robin Traveler and Joene Nicolaisen and also will retire on December 31  Joene has served for 15 years while Robin has been with the Center almost 13 years,

Sponsors for the gala dinner were ASL Communications, Sorenson Communications, InterWest Interpreting, Hearing Loss Association of America – Utah Chapter, Utah Association for the Deaf, Med-EL, Listen Technologies, Wells Fargo, Division of Services to the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Advisory Council members, Ann and Richard Tyler, Katherine P. Liddle, and Lee Tyler Robbins.

USD Update

Michelle Tanner

The 2017-18 school year is well underway and USD is providing services to school-age students all over the State.  Once again, we have enhanced the services we offer to students.  We now have an ASL Specialist for students in the Southern part of the State.  We have increased the number of interpreters to forty-eight.  A new database has been purchased for our audiologists that gives them increased access to student audiograms and promises to make services more efficient.  USD continually wants to improve the services we offer.

In our goal to be on the cutting edge of deaf education, USD has been working on innovative ways to educate our students.  We have purchased tools that allow us to provide more online courses that interact with a variety of curriculums.  This has included an iPad for every student, along with many applications for the iPads.  We have purchased many online tools such as; CANVAS, Benchmark Reading, GoReact, Discovery Education, Reading AtoZ, STMath, IXL Math, SignedStories, PowerSchool and Zoom; just to name a few.  For more hands-on learning experiences, we are providing MakerSpaces, several STEM projects, and a Vocational Center this school year.  USD is committed to preparing our students for a new technological world.

As part of USD’s commitment to developing the whole student, we are actively engaged in after school activities.  We are enhancing the reading skills of our students with an after-school reading clinic.  There are so many students interested in this activity that we have a waiting list.  After more than 20 years, we have a volleyball team.  There are only a few more games left, so watch UAD Announce if you would like to attend a game and support our girls.  We are sending several of our students to the Utah Shakespearean Festival to compete against other schools across the State. We have another group of students preparing to attend the Junior NAD Conference in November.  We are grateful to Sorenson Communications for helping us make this happen.  At USD, we know it is important to educate the whole student.

One of our treasured relationships is with the Deaf Community. We are extremely grateful for the continued and unwavering support from the UAD.  We are looking forward to another year of collaboration.  Thank you for supporting our students.  The Deaf Community is OUR community!

JMS Update

Aimee Breinholt

With the weather changing and school starting it is one of our favorite times of the year.  We have several new faces at JMS and encourage you to help us welcome them.  Nathan Harrison, our new assistant principal/innovative specialist joins us from NMSD.  We have three new teachers who have joined our teaching staff: Kristy Tolman (vocational), Kayla Meese (middle school), and Paige Huefner (2nd grade).  In addition to this, we have several new aides working with our students: Sharice Baker, Mandy Pyle, Merilee Swain, Sarah Gregory and Zach Mayo.  We have a highly skilled staff and are excited to work together to educate our students!

The school year is underway with teachers and students working hard to learn new things.  Teachers are working with several new programs.  We have changed to PowerSchool for our gradebook and IEPs. Teachers are learning about Canvas and starting to implement that into their classes.  We have access to GoReact and Benchmark Universe which are wonderful tools for teachers, parents and students.  Soon JMS will have a new visual PA system.  The equipment is installed.  We are anxiously awaiting the completion of the programming so we can utilize this system.

With the start of the school year we have jumped right into extra curricular activities.  Our girls are in their first season of volleyball.  Jennifer Caldwell and Katie Shepherd are teaching the girls new skills and teamwork in their practices and games.  We have a few home games left in the season and would love to invite all to come support our team.  The games will be held September 22nd at 5:30pm & 7pm; and October 7 at 10:00am in the OEC gym.

Jenni Johnson and Kayla Meese are working with our middle/high students in preparation for the Shakespeare competition in early October.  They will travel to Cedar City to participate in this statewide drama festival.

Fifth grade through eighth grade students have formed a Lego robotics team with Shari Solomon-Klebba and Stefanie Winkelman as their coaches.  They are learning programming/coding skills and teamwork as they prepare for competition in January.

Itzel Garcia is our new advisor for our Junior NAD chapter.  She is working with several students to help develop leadership skills and discuss ways to give back to the school and community.  Some of these students will participate in the Jr. NAD conference held in Omaha, Nebraska in early November.  We would like to thank Sorenson for helping to make this possible for our students.

After school activities are underway.  Students have been bowling, hiking and playing dodgeball with many more activities to come.  These activities are held Tuesdays and Thursdays and are open to all deaf/HH students in kindergarten through 8th grade.  Students need to register to participate.  Contact Whitney James at for more information regarding these activities.  In addition to this we started our reading clinic this past week.  This is a program that provides one-on-one reading tutoring for our students.  There are several students interested in participating and we currently have a waiting list.  We would love to serve them but need more tutors.  If you are interested in supporting this clinic please contact Trish Vierra at for more information.

We have felt tremendous support from the community and would like to thank you all.  We would like to mention a special thank you to the UAD Board and Sorenson for supporting our preschool welcome BBQ.  Thank you for helping to make that a success for our families. We look forward to the rest of the school year and eagerly anticipate working closely together with you all for the success of our students!


Bronwyn O’Hara

There are now four memorials in Salt Lake City, Utah for Ellen O’Hara, who lost her life in a vehicle accident July 1, 2016. Ellen was a teacher at the Jean Massieu School for the Deaf (JMS) under the Utah Schools for the Deaf (USD) for the past 6 years. She had just been promoted to Vice-Principal and ASL Specialist May 2016 and had just returned from a Conference for ASL Specialists in June. She was brimming over with ideas of how to better teach ASL to the children at JMS when the untimely accident took her out of our midst. She had also been extremely active in the Utah Association of the Deaf, serving as officer, UAD Biennial Convention chair (twice), and Vlogging the UAD Bulletin news on the internet.

At JMS, the new renovated auditorium has been named the Ellen O’Hara Auditorium. The grey and lime green color scheme has been carried over from the newest campus building in order to create continuity among campus. The auditorium’s lighting and video equipment is the newest and finest. Pictures of Utah nature scenes grace the walls. The room generates energy and excitement, much like Ellen herself. She was passionate about JMS, teaching, and children. Her enthusiasm will continue to permeate the school. Under her picture there will be a video machine designed to play and replay the ‘naming’ ceremony that was held on May 24, 2017. We thank Supt. Joel Coleman and Associate Supt. Michelle Tanner for honoring Ellen in this way.

At JMS there is a bench with Ellen’s name on it that was donated by fellow-JMS teacher, Jasmine Taylor, and her parents, Sharon and Neil Taylor. It is made from eucalyptus wood, tough enough to withstand the outside weather of Utah. The bench will be placed near the playground.

A mimosa tree has been planted near the JMS playground. This was donated by Ellen’s uncle and aunt, Jeff and Patty Usinger. The mimosa was chosen by Ellen’s mother, Bronwyn, as a symbol of Ellen’s love of the unusual and unique. Ellen loved explosions of color. The mimosa’s pink fluffy flowers look like flower explosions and smell like a mixture of peach and coconut, a very feminine ‘perfume’.

In the larger Deaf Center courtyard there will soon be a fairy statue set atop a pedestal to honor Ellen. This was purchased with donations of family and Deaf Community friends. The Fairy is dancing with a scarf. The O’Hara family feels this represents Ellen as she was known for her happy and positive outlook on life.

Ellen loved learning new things. That’s one reason she became a teacher. She wanted to help children love to learn. She found sooo many interesting things in the world to enjoy: colors and shapes and tastes and smells. She didn’t want anyone, young or old, to feel afraid to learn new things. She would try new foods like hummus, tofu, and purple carrots. She loved to explore new places and went to Romania, France, Italy, Hawaii. She loved to challenge herself to do new things like marathons, Mud Run team-challenge, sky-diving, and zip line.

Ellen always supported positive thinking and positive actions. Anyone who knew her knew how she loved to put uplifting quotes around on her walls.  If I can leave you with any message from Ellen it would be: “Life is for learning”. Learn all you can and see the beauty around you. Feel God’s love for you, you, you. That’s what Ellen did. You can do the same.

We all go through difficult experiences. Find ways to pick out the positive in any situation. Find ways to help each other.

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