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Meet APH Scholar Karen Reno

photo of Karen smiling pinned to a corkboard

APH would like to congratulate Karen Reno, nominated by Ex Officio Trustee (EOT), Kay Ratzlaff, for being selected as a 2020-2021 APH Scholar.

Karen was introduced to the field of blindness in high school when she became friends with a set of twins who were blind. “We had Biology class together, and I had the opportunity to be lab partners with one of the girls,” said Karen. “We had a great time together dissecting worms and later frogs. I had the opportunity to be her “eyes” and describe the different parts of the animals.” Karen was fascinated with the girls’ Braille ‘n Speaks that they used to take notes and the room where they printed their work and picked up materials. She said, “I always wondered where this room was and what it looked like… now I have my own Braille Room!”

After high school, Karen went to the University of Toledo and got her undergraduate degree as a Teacher of Students who are Visually Impaired (TSVI) and later obtained her Master’s degree in Orientation and Mobility (O&M) from Florida State University. Today, Karen works as an itinerant TSVI and part-time Certified O&M Specialist (COMS) for Citrus County Public Schools, serving students with a range of needs.


Using APH Products with Students

APH products have greatly contributed to the success of Karen’s students during her 17 years of teaching. BrailleBlaster helps Karen create all of her students’ text-based braille materials. She said, “Because BrailleBlaster allows for easy editing and formatting in print, I have been able to teach a paraprofessional some of the basic formatting rules, and she has been assisting me in creating quality materials.” Karen’s students who have low vision access their schoolwork with the MATT Connect’s included magnifier and participate in class with the help of its distance camera.

From elementary to high school, tactile graphics are a huge part of every student’s education. Karen’s younger students enjoy the Tactile Treasures Kit, as little fingers can explore the tactile graphics and students solve story problems that accompany each new skill. The Picture Maker Wheatley Tactile Diagramming Kit can be utilized to create small graphics and teach students about textures. “I introduced their math and science teachers to the tactile graphics created by APH for consistent and immediate access to the same material their peers are viewing,” said Karen. “Last year in Biology, for example, the Life Science Tactile Graphics were a great resource, and this year in Chemistry, the Azer’s Interactive Periodic Table Study Set has been invaluable.”

For one of her upper-level high school students taking anatomy and physiology, she uses the Tactile Graphics Image Library (TGIL) to obtain materials for class such as graphics of the different body systems. The TGIL’s graphics of 3-dimensional shapes also helped one of her students in their geometry class. Karen said, “I have shared this resource with other TSVIs, who tell me that it is now their first resource to check for needed materials.”

Aside from her regular duties as a TSVI, Karen serves as a COMS and loves taking her students out into the community for O&M lessons. “Using the Expanded Core Curriculum gives me the opportunity to take an idea from planning to fruition, like a cooking activity,” said Karen. “I spend time planning a cooking activity with a student- what are we making, what tools do we need, what food items do we need, how long will it take to prepare. Then, we plan a trip to the store to shop. Upon returning, we get the opportunity to cook and enjoy our food!” Karen’s students have taught her that, “Perseverance is essential to being successful.” Every day, Karen works to provide a quality education for her students. “With her experience, expertise, and eagerness to learn, she exemplifies all the attributes of an excellent teacher,” said EOT, Kay Ratzlaff.

Outside of work, Karen is involved with the Florida Instructional Materials Center for the Visually Impaired (FIMC-VI). For over 10 years, she has attended FIMC-VI workshops and webinars and volunteered for events including the Florida Regional Braille Challenge and Festival of Families. She also served as a judge for three years at the Florida Cane Quest, an event hosted by the Braille Institute where students showcase their O&M skills for a chance to win prizes. EOT, Kay Ratzlaff said, “Her expertise and vast knowledge of O&M has made her one of our favorite ‘go-to’ judges.”


Looking Toward the Future

Karen shared her hopes for a brighter future for the field of blindness. “I am hoping that braille continues to be relevant in this world of electronic devices. I also hope that someday there are enough TSVIs to serve all the students who need services.”


About the Program

Each year, EOTs are asked to nominate someone they feel provides outstanding service in their region. Through a scholarship, awardees are sent to Annual Meeting in Louisville as a guest of APH. APH pays for all expenses in attending the conference, including transportation, registration, and accommodations. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2020-2021 APH Scholars were unable to be with us in person this year but attended APH’s 152nd Annual Meeting virtually. We hope that next year, the scholars will be able to join us again in person.

Stay tuned for more information about webinars that our scholars will be hosting.



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