Awards and Recognition

2023 Excellence in Leadership Awards

Angie Hoff

Angie has taken on additional duties of being the OIB Program manager for NCBVI in addition to maintaining her current caseload. Angie led coordinating an impressive Silver Summit program that was individualized yet touched approximately 200 individuals.

 Angie was inspirational in what she shared with the public at this gathering, and was featured in the PSA for this event and knew a great message to share.

Angie has risen to the challenge time and time again of multi tasking and being able to switch gears multiple times throughout the workday. She has maintained good communication and responsibility throughout this time of transition, and has maintained a positive attitude with being optimistic about the future of NCBVI.

Eric Buckwalter

Eric has demonstrated to be innovative and constantly improving the Nebraska Business Enterprise program which he supervises. During his leadership, the program added several new locations to be served by our blind vendors. Eric is coordinating all of them with efficacy. Furthermore, he is always thinking on how to improve services, both with the Federal and State buildings we have vending machines and cafeterias. He is providing the vendors with better ways to deal with the public and training them on that too.

Eric is a team player as he collaborates with the blind vendors and building managers on assuring costumers are happy. The NBE is now short of staff, and Eric does not hesitate to help make sure things are done, so our obligation with the Federal and State partners are being fulfilled.

Eric also serves by Example when helping our blind vendors. He is always hands on when they need his help. He does not wait to get back to the blind vendors or building managers when they need him.

Eric has excellent customer services skills. He does this very natural and with passion, showing that he cares for the program and to see blind vendors be successful. The Nebraska Business Enterprises coordinates vending machine services as well as cafeteria services in most State and Federal buildings. This program is giving blind people the opportunity to have their own business and be contributing members of society. Like most government places, we are not the exception on having a hard time hiring new people. We expanded across the state providing quality vending and cafeteria services. Despite being short of staff and adding new locations, Eric has run the program with great level of efficacy. The NBE is a success in the state of Nebraska because Eric is focused and has high integrity. He is always transparent on the policies and procedures. Any decision that will affect the program, he brings to the Committee of Blind Vendors and engages them to come up with a solution. Eric has strong work ethics, he is always punctual, has good communication skills, and gets back to people promptly.

The NBE is short of staff and with a new employee. Eric has been coaching this new staff person with patience; giving clear directions, and clear expectations.


2022 Excellence in Leadership Awards

Kelly Coleman

Kelly Coleman from the Omaha office has been with NCBVI for many years and has always done great work with Blind Nebraskans.  However, this year the Omaha office has been short staffed so Kelly has had to wear many hats in addition to her normal duties.  Not only is she continuing her skills training work, she has filled in on our vocational rehabilitation cases and worked with our clients to obtain needed documentation for our federal reporting.  She still maintained her high level of services even while being a part of the NCBVI led programs such as Winnerfest and Project Independence.  Her commitment, work ethic, dependability, blindness and alternative skills knowledge, and belief in the core values of our agency has been a wonderful asset and extremely helpful to have during this transition of new staff to the office.  Whatever is needed for our success as agency, Kelly has been more than willing to step in, help, and complete the work efficiently and effectively.  With the more duties on her plate, Kelly maintains her approachable and friendly demeanor.  NCBVI thanks Kelly for her many years of service to our agency and her willingness to go above and beyond for our clients.

Adriene Moody

Adrienne Moody has worked for NCBVI in multiple roles at our agency, and has moved into the role of Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor within the last few years at our Omaha office.  Adrienne has always done any job that she has at our agency with high quality and high efficiency.  However, with the Omaha office being short staffed, she has taken on additional duties seamlessly and effectively.  She ensures clients are being seen even with a high caseload and their needs are being met.  Her positivity, philosophy for the Blind, and willingness to learn about all facets of social services helps our clients succeed with their goals.  Every time the bar has to be set higher when federal rules change or with staff turnover, Adrienne more than exceeds expectations.  Her adaptability and commitment to the task always shines through.  Even with all of the duties assigned to her, she was on the NCBVI committee for our Winnerfest program.  NCBVI thanks Adrienne for being a hard-working, skilled, approachable, and multi-talented member of our agency. 

2021 Excellence in Leadership Awards

Kathy Carroll

Kathy Carroll is the Deputy Director of Finance at our agency.  She has worked hard to streamline our business office processes within NCBVI.  Her knowledge of Finance and detail oriented nature has been an asset to our agency.  She completes our Federal Financial Reports, has verified their accuracy and worked within the State of Nebraska mandates to ensure our agency is following all regulations.  She has dedicated her time to ensure we are following the regulations and interpreting them correctly.  She has streamlined our business process within the state accounting system to make paying bills easier and worked hard with vendors and our staff to pay bills timely.  Her dedication to not only the accounting side of our agency but the services side has helped us become more efficient, accurate and timely.  She also incorporates our agency philosophy into her job and the job of those who work with her in the Business Office.  Her staff are friendly, approachable and all work together to keep communication lines open and she is the one to verify that is happening and continues to do so.  Thank you Kat for all of your hard work!


Mike Rains

Mike Rains is the wood shop/home maintenance teacher in our Nebraska Center for the Blind.  He teaches the students in our Center non-visual techniques to complete basic home maintenance and helps them complete a project using woodworking tools.  Not only is this information useful, it also helps build confidence in the blind to become independent.  Mike is always willing to step in and help outside of his classroom when the need arises.  He has managed the Center if the supervisor is out, on leave, etc. and many other duties not in his job description.  During the pandemic, he was instrumental in keeping the Center running the best as possible when the students had to quarantine at the apartments.  His willingness to think of ideas outside of the box during this time and follow through until the job is done is exemplary.   If he has an idea for a program our agency runs, he is always double checking that the project is feasible and how to best teach it using non-visual techniques.  Mike is dependable, friendly, hard-working, and a great team player.  If something needs to be done, he is one that will step in and get the job done.  He is always behind the scenes making sure everything is going smoothly without fan fare.  Our staff always appreciate Mike and his work but he deserves to be recognized for his commitment to our agency and our agency's philosophy of believing in the Blind.  Thank you Mike!


2020 Excellence in Leadership Award

Brandy Harper

Brandy has been working diligently and with efficacy on processing bills and other documents for the Business Office so our vendors could get paid, our clients could get their maintenance checks, and more. She has been very flexible on staying in the office to support the front desk, the Executive Director and vendors during the COVID-19 crisis. She has done all of that with a great attitude, promptness, and efficacy. Therefore, the Governor has selected her to be the 2020 Excellence in Leadership Honoree For NCBVI.


2019 Excellence in Leadership Awards

Nancy Flearl

Nancy has been a wonderful asset to NCBVI by going above and beyond her role as a district supervisor. Nancy works to support her team of staff with consumers, families, employers, schools, and much more. Nancy has also jumped in with both feet with the Nebraska Business Enterprise Program creating more jobs and/or increasing income for blind vendors as well as taking on additional duties to help support the administration and leadership of NCBVI. Nancy has helped to make the achievements of NCBVI possible with her hard work, dedication, and passion for the services NCBVI provides. Nancy has knowledge and expertise regarding the services we need for clients. She is very dedicated on everything she does resulting on enhancing morale among her colleagues, especially when we had to layoff around 20% of our staff back in March. Nancy demonstrated to be innovative in order to continue providing quality services and supporting and coaching her staff.


Larry Mackey

Larry has worked very hard to support the goals and direction of NCBVI especially when we had to make many changes due to budget shortage. Larry has helped the Nebraska Business Enterprise Program going above and beyond expectations of NCBVI helping to create more jobs for blind vendors. Larry continues to support and aid his consumers in independent living skills training, seek out resources and comparable benefits, and serves on advisory boards to educate the public on blindness. Larry’s dedication to blind consumers and NCBVI has made innovative thinking and growth possible elevating morale among his colleagues. Larry is very focused on quality costumer services and is very engaged with his district incorporating the changes.


2018 Excellence in Leadership Awards

Erin Brandyberry

Erin is a true leader. She has taken on projects that needed to be done for the agency that no one else was doing and did it on a timely and effective way. She developed the Commission for the Blind process for working with Developmentally Delayed individuals, as we got new requirements from Federal Regulations in this highly specialize area, and; work with staff and stake holders statewide to make sure that we provide the services clients with developmental disability need. She did the research with the National Rehabilitation Leadership Institute and other states to developed forms and best practices four our agency. This has been instrumental to our staff as they are meeting with consumers and service providers.

Commission for the Blind process for working with Developmentally Delayed individuals, as we got new requirements from Federal Regulations in this highly specialize area, and; work with staff and stake holders statewide to make sure that we provide the services clients with developmental disability need. She did the research with the National Rehabilitation Leadership Institute and other states to developed forms and best practices four our agency. This has been instrumental to our staff as they are meeting with consumers and service providers.

She took the leadership role again in developing a new financial process as we have a new case management system and engage the team to come up with results. She worked closely with our business office in have statewide continuity in our business practices. This included detailed manuals for VR Techs and Supervisors to refer to as they are processing paperwork. As we have implemented these changes if we needed to make any updates to the manual, she quickly communicated to VR Techs and Supervisors these changes.

Erin is a great team player. She values her team and wants to give them the supports and information that they need to do their best work. Erin has also allowed her District Rehab Tech to assist the VR Tech staff in the Omaha district in enhancing their skills with AWARE (The new data system) and processing the financial elements of their jobs.

These are just few examples of the impact Erin has had on services at the Nebraska Commission for the Blind. During a year where we experienced many changes and reduce budget, having a supervisor with the leadership and skills to provide us with concrete tools to aid you in performing your job duties is very valuable.

Erin has accomplished these tasks over and beyond her normal responsibilities as North Platte District Supervisor.


Cristal Dimas

Cristal is an extremely valuable employee who is always reliable. She has great initiative and has managed a large caseload for multiple years. The services that she provides her clients are above standards, and she does it with great care and compassion. She is a great coworker - a great source of information and very innovative. She has volunteered to work multiple programs in the past year and has phenomenal time management skills. Cristal is very humble and does things for the right reasons.

Cristal is the only field counselor on the employment committee and offers a great perspective to improve the services we provide. She also has taken advantage of many networking opportunities and is really creating a positive image for NCBVI in central Nebraska.


2017 Excellence in Leadership Awards

Jeff Altman

Jeff Altman demonstrates professional leadership and commitment to our agency and blind consumers.  In his role as Mobility Instructor, Nebraska Center for the Blind, Jeff has high expectations of clients, teaching travel skills and encouraging them to follow their dreams.  He has a strong relationship with Lincoln’s StarTran Advisory Board and bus system services, working diligently to help assure that bus routes and bus stop locations are as convenient as possible to blind individuals.  Jeff is a true team player, working with consumers and fellow staff members, as well.  Jeff also is skilled in One Touch Self-Defense and maintains certification to be able to teach blind clients how to be confident and self-reliant.  Jeff’s work enhances the quality of services provided to Nebraska’s blind consumers.  He truly understands our agency’s philosophy and mission as well as keeping up with trends in the field of rehabilitation for the blind.


Julie Buren

Julie Buren is the Data Quality lead for NCBVI.  She is an instrumental member of the AWARE team, implementing a major new client data system for the agency.  Julie has taken on the role of system administrator with thoughtfulness and grace.  She teaches agency staff how to best use the system, trouble shoots all issues that arise, and has helped to establish the entire system to best fit our agency’s needs   Julie’s approachability, time commitment, and teamwork has made this time of transition for our agency seamless and positive.  Julie has shown tremendous leadership skills in how she works with agency administration to keep the lines of communication open, deadlines met, and the workflow continuous with the conversion to AWARE.  Julie is a positive role model for fellow staff members because of her continuous demonstration of her work ethic, respect for all staff, good humor, patience, and dedication to our agency.


2016 Governor’s Awards Recipients

John Schmitt

John Schmitt is a Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) Counselor in the Norfolk NCBVI office.  John has been a solid VR Counselor for the Blind for many years.  He is a great team player in his district and for the agency statewide.  John demonstrates strong commitment and dedication to his clients every day.  This past year a business that employed many blind individuals closed its Nebraska facility.  John was instrumental in working with the people who lost their jobs and with the Marriott Corporation to assist them to become At-Home-Reservationists.  This not only helped clients in getting a job but also many other individuals in that community who lost their employment.  John is always willing to go beyond the norm, as a part of the NCBVI team.


Carol Jenkins

Carol Jenkins brings energy, enthusiasm, and efficacy to her role as Center Supervisor.  The number of Center clients has increased due to her leadership.  New field counselors seek her advice on the use of eForce and counseling skills. Carol helps them and always communicates with their supervisors.  Carol came to the Center in a very difficult time and worked to bring her team together.  She earned trust and respect from Center staff and NCBVI colleagues statewide.  Carol advocates for improvement at the Center and professional training for staff.  Finally, she communicates effectively with the business office and her supervisor in order to get the answers needed for her team, clients, and the rest of the agency staff.


2015 Governor’s Awards Recipients

Kathy Brown-Hollins

Kathy Brown-Hollins has energy and enthusiasm, wonderful relationships with consumers, colleagues, and develops positive relationships with educators, employers, and others. Kathy is a positive role model and mentor to clients and new staff. She helps plan and implement agency programs for children, youth, college students, and job-seekers. Kathy gives clients career guidance, pre-employment skills, and more, to gain self-confidence and elevated personal expectations. She develops on-the-job training experiences for consumers, encouraging students to work while in school. Kathy is always striving for self-improvement on Braille, technology, self-defense, and other skills. She worked with a committee to test case management systems in Oklahoma and Missouri. She was on hiring committees for new staff. Kathy consistently excels and contributes her warm personality to the entire team.


Wes Majerus

Wes Majerus manages Information Technology for NCBVI staff statewide. This includes a thorough knowledge of Access Technology for the blind. He is able to assess situations, resolve problems, and explain technology in plain language. Wes works with accessibility issues with the State of Nebraska. He is articulate, persistent and successful in many areas. Wes networks with the Office of the CIO, State Personnel, and other agencies, for testing to ensure that new systems are accessible to the blind and that existing systems become accessible. The work Wes does has a huge impact on blind consumers, blind staff and results in improving services to Nebraskans. Wes Majerus has a positive outlook on life, good sense of humor, and he is an excellent team player.


2014 Governor’s Awards Recipients

Shane Buresh

Shane Buresh, Orientation Counselor, is a tremendous role model for the blind.  Shane is a resource to professionals and clients on skills and techniques; always willing to share his expertise.  Shane demonstrates leadership in Project Independence, a program for blind children.  His approach is refreshing and innovative, full of challenges and high expectations.  Shane engages children’s imaginations, encouraging them to try new things and expand their horizons.  He projects a positive belief in blind people.  Shane unites staff members in well-coordinated team efforts, for meaningful, fun, memorable programs to enhance skills and confidence.  He coordinates the program while staying current on paperwork and maintaining contact with clients.  Shane’s rapport with and respect for his clients is reflected by the respect we all have for him.


Sarah Stewart

Sarah Stewart is Supervisor of the North Platte District, including offices in Kearney, North Platte and Scottsbluff.  Since becoming a supervisor two years ago, Sarah has demonstrated her skills as an efficient, well-respected leader within the Commission for the Blind and Visually Impaired.  She is genuinely interested in the professional growth of her Team and in quality services for Consumers.  Staff members appreciate her patience and strong support of their best efforts.  Sarah is a model of hard work and active participation in the work of the District and the Commission statewide.  The fact that staff members under Sarah’s supervision regard the North Platte District as stronger than it has ever been is a testament to the personal qualities Sarah has brought to her position.


2013 Governor’s Awards Recipients

Cheryl Livingston

Cheryl Livingston has been an exemplary employee of NCBVI for over fourteen years.  As a Vocational Rehabilitation Technician she wears many hats.  Cheryl is the first person most people encounter when coming to our Lincoln office.  She is cheerful and helpful to everyone walking through our doors. 
She is professional in all that she does.  Her work is always accurate and timely.  Cheryl deals with change effectively; she is quick to learn and take on new responsibilities.  She is gracious and calm, whatever the situation may be.

Cheryl contributes positively to the mission of our agency.  She believes in our clients, supports her coworkers, and helps all of us to be our best.  Cheryl makes every day better for everyone lucky enough to encounter her!


Carol Jenkins

Carol Jenkins, Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor, is strongly committed to consumers, staff, and the community.  With her good work, Carol embodies NCBVI’s mission of empowering blind individuals, promoting opportunities, and building belief in the blind.
Carol’s interaction with consumers shows her respect and no nonsense belief that consumers have the right and responsibility to run their own lives, make their own decisions, and form their own philosophies of life.

Carol led the work for an Interpreter/Support Service Provider’s (SSP) Workshop.  She did an outstanding job, resulting in an event that was effective in enhancing services for people who are Deaf-Blind.  Carol also leads other projects for the Deaf-Blind and Blind, including a youth group, employment workshops, and identifying options for education, employment and living full lives.


2012 Governor’s Awards Recipient

Cheryl Poff

Cheryl Poff, Older Blind Individuals Counselor in Omaha.  This is a special year, because you have been chosen as the Governor’s Employee of the Year Award for NCBVI.  Cheryl, I am pleased and proud that you are being recognized with this well-deserved honor!

Your primary focus now is with Senior Blind, handling most new referrals over age 55, who are not interested in employment.  Many experience secondary disabilities and still want to remain active and independent.  You provide a wealth of knowledge on resources that will support their independence.  Whether with individuals or with the group teaching activities, your contributions are priceless!

The work that you did to support the “Living the Full Life” Conference was tremendous!  You put a lot into preparation for the bus ride to make sure that it would go smoothly.  You are really good at communicating with consumers and your co-workers about what needs to be done and what has been done!  You also did a lot to arrange sessions of relevance to the individuals attending who experience a dual sensory loss and to make the Bingo activities accessible for Deaf-Blind participants.  Your contributions go beyond the professional to the personal; you know just what to do so that all can participate in a meaningful, fun way!

In addition, you continue to work to assure the best services for Deaf-Blind of all ages.  You mentor your colleagues as they develop the skills and knowledge of Deaf-Blindness.  You support the Hand in Hand and DBYA groups for adults and youth.  You continue to provide training sessions for UNO and Iowa Western Community College Interpreter Programs, to share our mission and educate students on Deaf-Blindness and best practices for interpreting.  Doing so, you raise awareness of the needs of individuals experiencing a dual sensory loss.

Cheryl, you have also been working with a committee to develop a new certification process for Interpreters that will become the new standard for the State of Nebraska.  You have the greatest knowledge of working with interpreters, you know the protocol, and you know what works for all involved.

I really appreciate that you are a strong advocate for the consumers you serve.  You quickly establish rapport and you are held in the highest regard by consumers and professionals alike.

With all that you do, you remain one of the most positive and encouraging member of our team, in Omaha and statewide.  Thank you so much for all that you do to improve our lives and the lives of your clients!


2011 Governor’s Awards Recipients

Sherrie Bruegman

Sherrie Bruegman, Vocational Rehabilitation Technician in North Platte, is personable, professional and knowledgeable, with a warmth and sense of humor that endear her to everyone. Sherrie is now providing administrative support for the Kearney office, as well as all her normal duties. She spent several days in Lincoln working on eForce system issues. Always dedicated and hard-working, she willingly rearranges her schedule to best serve co-workers and clients, even with little notice. Sherrie has provided transportation to clients early in the mornings and late in the evenings. She provides training in agency paperwork to new employees and is the district expert on paperwork. The North Platte District and NCBVI Staff statewide are able to effectively and efficiently serve blind Nebraskans thanks to Sherrie Bruegman.


Carlos Serván

Carlos Serván, Deputy Director, directly supervises three offices, in addition to his statewide administrative duties. He treats employees with respect, encouragement and warmth. Carlos is approachable when questions or issues arise. This year, Carlos became head of the Business Enterprise Program; creating profitable entrepreneurial opportunities for working blind vendors. Carlos connects less skilled blind people with mentors to enhance their rehabilitation process. He is goal oriented personally and for staff and clients, particularly for attaining high quality employment outcomes. Carlos has passion and belief in blind people; he has clear expectations of staff members. He recognizes and encourages good work; addressing deficits directly with clear understanding of improvements expected. An excellent role model, he shows that personal goals can be accomplished, despite any barriers.


2010 Governor’s Awards Recipients

Robert L. Newman

Robert L. Newman embraces his job, creating ways to better serve blind Nebraskans. He is the first person at work daily. After 36 years, he “still looks forward to Monday morning!” Robert mentors new staff members, shares his talents in technology, and models best practices as a counselor. He trains staff and consumers on accessible technology for the blind and works diligently on job development.

This year Robert inspired the idea to give hands on training to prepare clients for the job search. He was a key player in our successful placement project, resulting in blind clients getting jobs. A positive role model and mentor, we continually receive feedback on his high quality of services. Robert sees blindness as a mindset which people can achieve.


Nancy Flearl

Nancy Flearl communicates passion, conviction, and clear expectations. Respected for honesty and fairness, she identifies solutions and strategies to solving problems. Nancy provides individuals and teams with what they need to accomplish goals. Nancy provides leadership in cost-saving measures with minimal adverse impact on services. She addresses personnel and client concerns firmly with compassion. She proactively anticipates future demands and challenges; partnering with community organizations in innovative ways. Nancy exemplifies high values, expectations, dedication and commitment. Her value as a team player is evident to everyone involved. Nancy works hard to maintain good working relationships and morale, in good times and bad. The esprit de corps in Omaha District is growing stronger, thanks to Nancy Flearl.


2009 Governor's Awards Recipients

Dottie Wilmott

Dottie Wilmott deserves special commendation for her work on our new data management system, eForce. She worked with the programmer, staff members, technology consultants, and many others. Dottie’s efforts made the system fully accessible, a perfect fit for service delivery, and a tool that will work well for the agency for years to come.

Dottie’s persistence and determination to make sure that eForce would be user friendly, for blind and sighted staff alike, was a major reason for its success. Dottie travelled to each office and worked with individual staff members to answer questions and assure their comfort with the system. Staff members are already commenting that it helps them utilize information directly, all electronic and fully accessible. Dottie’s work has been outstanding!


Bob Deaton

Bob Deaton, NCBVI Deputy Director for Independent Living, manages rehabilitation teaching services, supported employment, deaf-blind services and many other aspects of our agency on a statewide basis. In addition, this year Bob has served as co-supervisor for the three offices within the North Platte District.

Since taking on this additional role, Bob has not once acted overburdened with the extra work. He always has time for questions or concerns of staff members. Bob treats all employees with respect, giving them encouragement and support to perform their jobs professionally. In his work with FYI (the group training for older blind persons), Bob was one of the clients’ favorite people. He puts them at ease, sharing his story and many laughs; a great role-model for the blind.

Thanks to all staff for your nominations of your colleagues!
Dr. Pearl Van Zandt
Executive Director


2008 Governor's Awards Recipients

Kelly Coleman

Kelly Coleman, Orientation Counselor in Omaha, strongly believes in and has high expectations of her blind clients. We constantly receive praise for her abilities and professionalism from clients, families, community professionals and employers.

Kelly teaches non-visual techniques, assists with technology issues, stays current on new assistive technology and does much of the technology training. Kelly works closely and effectively with team members, partnering to help clients achieve their employment goals.

Kelly is detail oriented, well organized, conscientious, and timely on all service delivery and paperwork. She has worked all the agency statewide and local programs. She serves as a leader and a strong team member, stepping in to help wherever needed. Kelly takes the initiative to do whatever needs to be done.


Bill Brown

Bill Brown, Business Manager, works to assure responsible business practices, with attention to customer service, integrity and timeliness.

Bill did an extraordinary job managing our office remodeling. He established detailed communication with many different entities and people. He was respectful of staff preferences and needs. With organization and follow through, he assessed office, training, storage and conference room space; ordered modifications, equipment, and work stations. Bill is extending this assessment to other offices and positive changes are expected there, too. Bill’s work has greatly enhanced staff morale.

Bill also directs efforts to establish a new data management system, eForce. He persists in keeping the project moving. Once live, the eForce system will make us all more efficient and free to concentrate on client services.