Pictured above: Brian Werts (right) and Jonathan Karli, Regional Director, at the Board of Regents meeting in Council Bluffs on Nov. 9.
Brian Werts, orientation and mobility specialist with Iowa Educational Services for the Blind and Visually Impaired (IESBVI) was awarded the Board of Regents, State of Iowa’s Faculty Excellence Award at the Board’s meeting Nov. 9 in Council Bluffs. Recipients earn the award for outstanding performance of their duties in service to the institution, its students and the state of Iowa.
“My personal experience of having a visual impairment allows me to see the world through my students’ perspectives,” said Werts. As a professional, he has also gained the perspective of his students’ parents, understanding how to support families and school teams. “My experiences help me advocate for students and connect with families on how their lives will evolve and change as they advance through school, transition into adulthood and ultimately, strive for increased independence.”
Orientation and mobility specialists teach students with visual impairments to travel safety, confidently and independently in their school and community environments. According to Jonathan Karli, IESBVI Regional Director and Werts’ supervisor, Werts exceeds expectations in his position.
“He sets a high standard for his students and works tirelessly to support his students in meeting those high standards,” said Karli. “He is effective in communicating these expectations to parents and teachers. In education, we know it often takes a team – Brian is aware of this and communicates with others to support the orientation and mobility skills of the students he serves.”
Originally from Corydon, Iowa, Werts earned his master’s degree from Northern Illinois University. This degree in Education for Students with Visual Impairments and Orientation and Mobility satisfies requirements for him to work as both a teacher of the visually impaired and an orientation and mobility specialist. Werts currently holds Iowa licensure in orientation and mobility and national Certification in Vision Rehabilitation & Education Professionals (ACVREP).
He was hired by IESBVI in January, 2017 and is contracted to work with blind and visually impaired students in Heartland Area Education Agency. His average caseload is 15-20 students.
Werts is involved in many aspects outside of direct student contact that ultimately leads to better student outcomes. One committee he serves on ensures the most up-to-date assessments and instructional strategies are practiced across Iowa. He works with the Extended Learning Program staff to coordinate activities, coach the IESBVI Rams wrestling team, and even fills in for Santa at IESBVI student holiday events. Werts works or co-directs at IESBVI summer camps.
“Knowing the opportunities that haven’t always been offered or are not inclusive of children with vision impairments, I want to do my part in making sure those opportunities are offered and they are positive and empowering experiences for all the participants,” said Werts.