Wendy Hewitt – Parent
Wendy Hewitt is the Executive Director of Wyoming Families for Hands & Voices and lives in the southwest corner of Wyoming in the small town of Mountain View. Wendy has three children: Dallie, Ruger, and Kassidy. Ruger and Kassidy were born with profound bilateral sensorineural hearing loss. And so, the hearing loss journey began. A path Wendy never imagined she would take. Wendy learned all about hearing aids, cochlear implants, ling sounds, speech therapy, early intervention, IEPs and more. This is just a small list that parents of children who are deaf/hard of hearing know all too well.
In May of 2006, some professionals in Wyoming talked Wendy and Deb Hovde into starting Hands & Voices in Wyoming. With the support of many organizations, Wyoming Families for Hands & Voices became an official chapter in September of 2006. It has been amazing to see the changes and growth our chapter has made over the years.
Wendy and her family enjoy camping, hunting, going on ranger rides, attending, and participating in community and high school rodeos. A considerable amount of time was spent traveling to these rodeo events along with going to basketball, wrestling, volleyball, soccer, and football games. Participating in these activities helped the Hewitt’s learn many tricks and strategies to keeping cochlear implants on under football helmets, 4-wheeler helmets, cowboy hats and headbands for all their sporting activities. Wendy was even asked by National Hands & Voices program to author an article about the many ways of keeping hearing devices on while doing these activities.
BOARD OF DIRECTORS
Molly McColley – Parent
Kim Reimann – Parent
Pediatric Clinic Coordinator/GBYS Coordinator
Kim Reimann is currently the Wyoming Families for Hands & Voices, Guide By Your Side (GBYS) Program Coordinator and is a Family Educator and Second Tester at CDC+ Audiology Clinic in Casper, Wyoming. She was the former assistant director of Wyoming Families for Hands & Voices from 2011 to 2015 before stepping down to work in other roles. The oldest of her three children, Gabrielle, was born with a moderate to moderately-severe bilateral sensorineural hearing loss, thus starting her on the path to what she does today.
As a former educator and preschool director, Kim Reimann carried her love of education and helping others into her current role of serving families. Kim’s passion is working with parents and their children by engaging the circle of support between parents and professionals (physicians, audiologists, early interventionists etc.). She helps to empower parents by sharing her story of raising a child with hearing loss, supporting families by connecting them with appropriate information, resources, and networks so that families can make informed, educated decision to help their child reach their fullest potential.
She never imagined that being a parent would lead to working with many different organizations to help children who are deaf and hard of hearing (D/HH) through connections with professionals, providing advocacy and support for families, and working to establish and maintain different programs for the benefit of children who are D/HH in Wyoming. Through the years, Kim has been grateful to be a part of the changes and growth of Wyoming Families for Hands & Voices and to work with so many amazing people.
Kim has two other children, Natalie and Curtis who help round out their family of five. In her free time, she enjoys spending time with her family and friends, reading, photography, hiking, traveling, and is always up to watching a good movie.
David & Donella Holland- Parents
Parent, Teacher of the Deaf
Betsy Tengesdal has been a Teacher of Deaf/Hard of Hearing (TOD) since 2001. After graduating from the University of Tulsa with her Bachelor of Science degree in Education of the Deaf, she taught for 9 years in Minnesota. While in Minnesota, she worked with all ages of D/HH students ages birth through high school graduation. Betsy earned her Master’s degree in Family Sciences from Texas Woman’s University in 2004. From 2008-2014, Betsy and her family moved to Boys Town, NE where she and her husband were trained and served as Family Teachers for the Father Flanagan’s Boys Town organization.
While at Boys Town, Betsy was no longer teaching in the classroom; however, was learning what it meant to raise a D/HH child. While at Boys Town, Betsy and Jon’s middle child was diagnosed with a progressive bilateral hearing loss. After leaving Boys Town in 2014, Betsy and her family moved to Wyoming, and she went back to teaching D/HH students.
In addition to being a TOD, Betsy is working with the Wyoming Department of Education as a Behavior Consultant.
In this role, Betsy collaborates with teams across the state of Wyoming to brainstorm strategies to set students up for success and to teach prosocial skills. This collaboration has been a dream of Betsy’s and seeing it come to fruition has been a privilege and an honor for her to work with IEP teams in this way.
Seeing things as both an educator, as well as a parent of a child with hearing loss, gives Betsy the ability to see situations from both sides of the table and a passion to find ways for parents to feel supported and encouraged in their parenting journey.
In her spare time, Betsy loves cooking, collecting stamps in her passport, exploring the beauty of Wyoming, and drinking tea with friends or alone with a great book!
Meghan Watt – d/hh adult
My name is Meghan Watt. I have been deaf since the age of two as a result of meningitis. My parents did everything they could to ensure I could communicate. Some traveling around the state was involved to find an audiologist that was able to help such a young child at the time. I grew up wearing hearing aids. I attended the Wyoming School for the Deaf. This school helped me improve my speech comprehension and taught me how to sign. I also learned how to advocate for myself at this school along with learning how to use different tools available to me to hear and communicate better (use of FM systems, having the choice of sign and speech).
I got my first cochlear implant 10 years ago, implanting my left ear as that ear had no hearing at all. I had nothing to lose and everything to gain with that ear. About 2 1/2 years later, I went bilateral and I haven’t looked back. I love being able to hear with my implants, but I also do enjoy my quiet time. Since upgrading to the Marvel processors from Advanced Bionics, I have been beyond thrilled with the use of the Bluetooth features and have enjoyed taking advantage of music, audiobooks, and podcasts on my phone! Being deaf is apart of who I am. I like having the choice of hearing or not hearing, going back and forth as needed.
My hobbies include reading books, playing video games, hanging out with my dog (when he’s not driving me up the wall) and getting out to explore when I can. I do like to spend time with the Casper Deaf Social.
Traci Larson – Teacher of the Deaf
I have lived in Gillette, WY since I was 2 years old. I have been married to a wonderful man for 33 years. We have two children. Our son is 27 ,married and has a 4 year old girl. My daughter is 22, with a daughter who is almost 2. I have been teaching in the Campbell County School District for the past 30 years. I have spent the past 21 years of my teaching career in Deaf Education.
Former Wyoming EDHI Coordinator
Nancy Pajak graduated from the University of North Dakota in 1975 with a B.S. In Speech Pathology. She spent two years working in Minnesota public schools before beginning her Master of Science in Audiology studies at Colorado State University. Upon completion of her Masters, Nancy accepted a position with the Colorado West Otolaryngology Practice in Grand Junction Colorado.
While Nancy enjoyed the medical setting, her true love was Educational Audiology. She began work at Natrona County School District in Casper WY as the District Audiologist in 1979. She enjoyed this work until moving to Seattle in 1987. It was in the Pacific Northwest that Nancy found the opportunity to spend half of her time in educational settings and the other half in a medical environment.
Nancy blended diagnostics, fitting amplification, counseling, and patient care for all ages with her skills in direct intervention and case management for school age children who were Deaf/Hard of Hearing. Spending time in both medical and educational/developmental settings continued after Nancy and her husband, Mark, moved from the Pacific Northwest to Laramie, Wyoming to raise their two boys.
Nancy worked as the Director of Outreach Services for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing at the Wyoming Department of Education while keeping up her medical skills up at Ivinson Memorial Hospital in Laramie. As the importance of early hearing screening came of age, Nancy accepted the opportunity of designing and implementing the Early Hearing Detection and Intervention (EHDI) Program for the Wyoming Department of Health. She was the Wyoming EHDI Coordinator for 25 years until she retired.
Nancy is utilizing her knowledge and experience in speech pathology, audiology, program management and child development and education as she serves as the Liaison/Consultant between the Wyoming Early Intervention Initiative (WEII) Program and the Marion Downs Center.
KATEY STAEBEN – AUDIOLOGIST
My name is Katey Staeben and I am an educational audiologist with Laramie County School District One in Cheyenne. I received my Doctorate in Audiology (Au.D.) from the University of Kansas Medical Center in 2009. While obtaining my doctorate I focused on pediatric and difficult-to-test populations; completing a Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental and related Disabilities (LEND) program, which provided an opportunity to collaboratively assess children with developmental delays. I look forward to interacting with families and students every day and I am grateful to be a part of the Wyoming Families for Hands and Voices organization.
Jo Otterholt – deaf adult
Jo Otterholt brings a lifetime of experience to Wyoming Hands and Voices having been born deaf, advocating for the deaf, mentoring deaf students, educating the deaf, and giving many reassuring hugs to parents, family members, friends, and educators of the deaf. My twin and I were born deaf; but it was not confirmed that we had severe to profound hearing loss until we were 4 years old. We were immediately fitted with the newest state of art transistor, body-worn hearing aids of that time. In 2017, I realized that hearing aids were no longer effective for my needs, so I had bi-lateral cochlear implants. I am still realizing many new to me sounds that I had only known about before – but never really heard. This summer, it is with nervous dread that I am anticipating hearing a mosquito buzzing for the first time. Just last week, I ducked and clamped a hand over my ear – the first snowflake-in-the-ear-canal shock!
I worked for Wyoming Department of Education, Individual Learning Division as Resource Specialist of the Outreach Library Services for the Deaf/HH, located in the former School for the Deaf Building in Casper. Outreach Library houses resources and materials related to all aspects of living with and educating Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing children, students, and adults. Through collaboration with Outreach Library, families are able to receive books to read with their children under guidance of the READ Plus Program.
I have been blessed and proud to be the coordinator, chaperone, and coach of Wyoming Academic Bowl Teams since 2003 – 15 years. Gallaudet University sponsors this academic competition that has changed the lives of Wyoming deaf and hard-of-hearing high school students. Wyoming students have travelled across the United States from the west to east coast of United States and from Washington, D.C. to Riverside, CA. Wyoming Teams have won several Regional Competition trophies and medals as well as being able to compete in the last four National competitions in Gallaudet University.