The MDE-LIO BVI Support Team was created to help develop competent, informed, and knowledgeable teachers of students who are visually impaired (TVIs), teacher consultants of students who are visually impaired (TCVIs), and certified orientation and mobility specialists (COMS) in Michigan schools.
Through this program, novice school personnel serving students who are Blind/Visually Impaired (BVI) are paired with experienced teachers and COMS as they gain experience in the field. This program is offered at no cost to districts or individuals.
Download a brochure: MDE-LIO BVI Support Team Brochure [PDF]
Need for Support
TVIs, TCVIs, and COMS working with students who are BVI are in a unique position. They:
- work with students ages birth to 26 who have a wide range of visual, cognitive, and physical abilities
- are often the only vision professionals employed by small and rural districts and are often isolated from peers who could provide knowledge and assistance
- must be able to successfully interact with parents, teachers, health professionals, and administrators who may be unfamiliar with the needs of students who are BVI
- must have well-developed organizational skills to meet the demands of a fast-paced job that requires flexibility and creativity with unique students, learning environments, and schedules
Who is Eligible
MDE-LIO will support Michigan TVIs, TCVIs, and COMS who are currently working in Michigan schools and meet at least one of the following criteria:
- first year TVI, TCVI, or COMS
- recently transferred from another state
- recently returned to the visual impairment (VI) field after more than five years
- student in the VI Consortium for Teacher Preparation who has been placed in a TVI or TCVI role
- TCVI who recently completed work to become a COMS and is now in that role
What is Provided
Each novice TVI, TCVI, or COMS is paired with an experienced Support Team member for up to two years. Team members may offer support for situations and questions regarding:
- conducting evaluations
- instruction and consultation
- the expanded core curriculum
- scheduling daily plans and keeping records
- professional development resources such as workshops, conferences, tools, and online resources
- informal observations and supportive feedback
- networking opportunities
Novice school personnel participating in the Support Team program are encouraged to participate in professional development activities offered by MDE-LIO. Support Team Project Consultant Lynn Pensari is also available for phone or in-person meetings to share information and respond to individual needs for support.
Additional support may be provided by MDE-LIO’s educational consultants.
How to Request Support
Support from the MDE-LIO Support Team can be requested by any Michigan TVI, TCVI, or COMS who meets the criteria above.
- Fill out and sign the New TVI/TCVI and O&M Specialist Support Request Form [PDF].
- Email the form to Lynn Pensari at [email protected].
- MDE-LIO will approve or deny the request.
- If the request is approved, the requester’s administrator will be required to sign and submit a separate approval form.
- The requester will then be paired with a Support Team member.
Benefits for School Districts and Administrators
- Staff turnover costs decrease; teacher retention builds continuity with students.
- Professional expertise increases as new VI professionals are guided to:
- access free educational resources and materials for districts with eligible students
- use additional MDE-LIO services
- learn about statewide family engagement activities and events
- get VI-specific assistance for ongoing professional development
- Support is provided for assessments, instructional strategies, and the expanded core curriculum.
- The program provides an opportunity to gain a thorough understanding of Michigan policies, procedures, and practices for evaluating and serving students who are BVI.
Benefits for Students and Families
- Teacher support leads to long-term retention, resulting in consistent, high-quality instruction.
- Instruction is provided to students using best practices in braille, assistive technology, independent living skills, and career education.
- Services are offered in a universally designed way to meet unique learner needs, including students with neurological visual impairments.
Support Team Members
The MDE-LIO Support Team includes experienced TVIs, TCVIs, and COMS in Michigan. MDE-LIO has vetted each member based on a specific set of criteria to ensure quality support.
Lynn Pensari, Ed.S., VI Project Consultant
Lynn Pensari received her BA in Special Education – Visual Impairment and Elementary Education from Illinois State University. She attended Stephen F. Austin State University to become a certified orientation and mobility specialist. Pensari has an MA from Eastern Michigan University in Educational Leadership and an Educational Specialist in Early Childhood – Special Education from Wayne State University.
Pensari worked in Illinois and Texas as a TVI before moving to Michigan, where she worked as a TVI and orientation and mobility specialist at Livonia Public Schools for 20 years. From 2013–2019, Pensari served as an education consultant for MDE-LIO.
Pensari is a Perkins-Roman-Endorsed Cortical Visual Impairment Specialist and was the recipient of the Michigan Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired (MAER) Award in 2018.
Cindy Barker earned her BA in Special Education – Visually Impaired, Elementary Education, and Early Childhood from Michigan State University. She earned an MA in Orientation and Mobility/Rehabilitation Teaching from Boston College, and an MA in Cognitive Impairment from Central Michigan University.
Barker’s work experience includes roles as a teacher consultant for the visually impaired, orientation and mobility instructor, and rehabilitation teacher in New York and Michigan, both in public schools and at a private agency. Barker also served on MDE-LIO’s Cortical Visual Impairment (CVI) Team and has conducted various workshops to help others learn about CVI. Most recently, she retired from Traverse Bay Area Intermediate School District as a classroom teacher of students with severe multiple impairments and blindness.
Kimberly Canzoneri earned her BA as a Certified Visual Impairment Teacher (K–12) and MA in Special Education from Eastern Michigan University. She served as a TVI in the Lincoln Park High School VI Program for 24 years, worked for the Lincoln Park Middle School VI Program for two years, and served as a TCVI for six years before retiring in 2020. Canzoneri's passion is working with students who are Blind/Visually Impaired on high school transition skills and independent living skills.
Judy Davidhizar-Holmes taught O&M to students ages 0–26 for 38 years before retiring in 2018. She has certifications in preschool and elementary education and is a retired TCVI who has worked in a variety of educational settings throughout the Midwest as well as at the School for the Blind in Nuremberg, Germany.
Davidhizar-Holmes' strengths include teaching and tailoring O&M lessons to offer students full access to their world—through meaningful and relevant instruction—and to have fun learning in the process. Her focus is enabling each student to reach his or her full potential and to build skills that enable a student to become his or her own best advocate. Davidhizar-Holmes continues to be involved in professional O&M and VI organizations, and she strives to ensure that her students are included in their communities.
Kathryn (Kamie) Fortier
Kamie Fortier earned her BA in Special Education – Visually Impaired from Michigan State University and earned her MA in Special Education – Early Childhood. She has more than 30 years of experience in the field in South Carolina, Texas, Minnesota, and Michigan.
Fortier has also served on committees such as the Michigan Vision Services Severity Rating Scale Plus and Minnesota Braille Skills Inventory. She is proud to have mentored four paraprofessionals as they worked to become either TCVIs or COMS.
Ann McKay-Bacon, M.Ed.
Ann McKay-Bacon is a retired TCVI from Macomb Intermediate School District with more than 44 years in the field. She has degrees from Michigan State University, Wayne State University, and Marygrove College in the areas of Visual Impairment and Emotionally Impaired, with Early Childhood Development certification. McKay-Bacon is currently continuing an educational journey at Western Michigan University.
McKay-Bacon has been part of of MDE-LIO’s technology team for more than 18 years as a trainer, evaluator, and co-author on the Michigan Assistive Technology Guidelines for Teachers of Students Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired, as well as MDE-LIO’s Assistive Apps section. She has presented at MAER, the Council for Exceptional Children, and Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired (AER) conferences. She received the MAER David and JoAnn Lifetime Achievement Award in 2019.
Marcia Pavkovich received her BS in Education of the Blind and Visually Impaired (K–12) from Western Michigan University. She received her MS in Guidance and Counseling (K–12) from Fort Valley State College in Georgia, and her MA in O&M from Western Michigan University.
For the first six years of her career, Pavkovich worked in Houston County, Georgia, before moving back to Michigan and serving as a TCVI at Genesee Intermediate School District. During that time, she also worked for Disability Research Systems in Lansing on the Addressing Unique Educational Needs (AUEN)/Outcomes Project. She also helped develop the initial Michigan Vision Services Severity Rating Scale and had the privilege of helping local districts implement Quality Programs for the Visually Impaired (QPVI).
Kathy Roelofs-Jones earned her bachelor's degree in Elementary Education, and her master's degree in Special Education - Visually Impaired from Michigan State University.
Roelofs-Jones' experience includes serving as a teacher for the visually impaired for 25 years at the Lansing School District, and as a teacher consultant for the visually impaired for 10 years at the Lansing School District and Ingham Intermediate School District (ISD). Roelofs-Jones has also served as a braille instructor at MDE-LIO for about 10 years. She recently retired from Ingham ISD as a teacher consultant for the visually impaired.
Laura White earned her BS in Special Education – Visually Impaired from Eastern Michigan University in 1986. She earned her MA in Orientation and Mobility in 1991 from Western Michigan University.
White taught students who are Blind/Visually Impaired in Michigan for more than 30 years as a teacher consultant and certified orientation and mobility specialist. From 1994-2002, White served as a board member, president-elect, president, and past president of the Michigan Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired (MAER). She has also been a member of Michigan Parents of the Visually Impaired (MPVI), Lion’s and Leo clubs, and the University of Michigan Council for Disability Concerns Orientation and Mobility Task Force. White retired from Washtenaw Intermediate School District in 2021.