CTEBVI Conference


Pictured: (l-r) Bob Sweetman, Taylor Cox, Jamie Murdy at 2016 CTEBVI Conference

Pictured: (l-r) Bob Sweetman, Taylor Cox, Jamie Murdy at 2016 CTEBVI Conference


Hi! My CTEBVI presentation went good. Now I’ll explain it in detail, along with the other parts of the conference.


First, I got to L.A. I met with my teacher, Mrs. Jamie. I ate a lot of candy before my presentation because I was really nervous. We had about twenty minutes with the other presenter, Bob Sweetman, and we were ready.

I was so excited. I presented on the technology I use in my schoolday. I talked about the Computer with JAWS, my Open Book software and the Pearl Camera, which is basically an app on my computer and a camera that connects with a USB port and scans a print paper. I also talked about my BrailleNote,my iPad, and my phone. Sometimes my teacher chimed in, but it was mostly me. I was so happy and calm during the presentation and it felt so good doing it. I loved every second of it. At the end of the presentation, I got a lot of “good jobs” and “you did amazing.” I loved every single part of it. My teacher actually counted fifty people in the conference room!

After the hard part was done, I got to relax. I got to go to the guide dog booth and try a Juno lesson. That basically means that a guy was holding the other part of the harness while I held the handle. It was cool because I felt like I could walk without a cane like sighted people do. It made me feel more independent also because of the fact that I walked faster. Finally, it made me want a dog more. I also got to see the new BrailleNote Touch. It is a model of a tablet, but it has a cool keyboard built in to the case. But when you flip up the case,the keyboard is gone. THERE IS JUST A TOUCH SCREEN. I GOT TO TALK TO THE MAN WHO CREATED THE BrailleNote, Greg Stilton. He’s a genius! After that I went to another conference, then my mom and I left the scene of our crime.

This experience was amazing. I think, though, if more kids could present, it would be awesome. It would not only build their confidence, even if it is nervewracking. Just prepare, and you’ll be fine. This was a great experience, again, and more people should do it.

I hope I’ll get the chance to write again. Most likely, you’ll hear from me soon.

Until next time,



The Story Of My Life

Pictured: (l-r) Taylor and Mr. Sweetman with braille notes, computer, phone, and braille display, practicing for the CTEBVI presentation.

Pictured: (l-r) Taylor and Mr. Sweetman with braille notes, computer, phone, and braille display, practicing for the CTEBVI presentation.

Hi! I’ve been so busy these days I haven’t been able to write. To start things off, I made it into the school musical. It is High School Musical and I’m the piano player’s sister, Lizzie. If you have seen the movie, you know that Kelsi is the piano player, however the drama teacher wanted me to have a partner.
​Another new thing right now is I’m doing worship for the little kids at Easter service at my church. I’m singing and playing the piano. We are doing four songs. We’re performing for about five hundred kids. It’ll be really awesome!

Hold on… There’s more! I’m doing a presentation in April at the CTEBVI conference. I’m doing it on how technology helps me be independent in my school day. I won’t blow it for you, but I’m doing it with Bob Sweetman from Sweetman Systems and also my teacher, Jamie Murdy. Definitely check out the Sweetman Systems Booth in the Exhibit hall. Also try to come to my presentation—we had a practice run on Friday and it’s coming along great!

I’ll be writing a lot these coming weeks. And, again, my birthday’s coming up! I’m going to be a rotten teenager now. I’m really excited. I’ll write soon!


What exactly is the Donna Coffee Youth Scholarship?

ctebvi logo

As adults, most of us think of scholarships as having something to do with academics – knowing the funds will likely be used for things such as tuition, books or the like.  So when we hear of a youth scholarship opportunity for our BVI students, likely your mind goes directly to the description above. Lets be honest, you thought, “eh…that sounds nice…”  Right? Or you might be thinking that the department of rehab already covers what they might request. But wait…because that isn’t exactly what we are offering.* Well, not exactly.

So what exactly does this Donna Coffee Youth Scholarship offer???

SO MUCH MORE than you think, my friends! The Donna Coffee Youth Scholarship (DCYS) wants to give BVI students a chance to:

  • Explore what makes them “tick.” Is it sports, art, music, cooking???
  • Inspire their creativity and individuality.
  • Discover who they really are.
  • Further investigate areas of their academics they need assistance with.
  • Help them to become the most well-rounded, best versions of themselves!

It’s not everyday that a scholarship opportunity exists for our students that encourages (and welcomes) the development of not just academics, but social skills! What?!

CTEBVI’s Donna Coffee Youth Scholarship is just that scholarship you and your students are looking for and what a great opportunity it is! So please take a look at the application and encourage your student to apply!


  • If submitting via email: application and supporting attachments are due by Friday, February 27, 2015
  • If submitting via snail mail, application and supporting attachments must be postmarked by: Wednesday, February 25, 2015

* ok to be fair, the Donna Coffee Youth Scholarship absolutely promotes academic development, but we want you all to think outside of the box!

How Using Blogs Can Help Our BVI Students

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ctebvi logo

Dear TVI or O&M Specialists,

We are a busy group; there is so much we need to accomplish and not enough time. You see your students and work with them on academics (ie., math or science) or their IEP goals, and can’t imagine having time to add anything else to the mix. The fact that you’re spending time to read this blog (THANK YOU!) is fantastic and you’re probably multi-tasking as it is right now anyway. If the concept of social media seems daunting, don’t run away when I say that social media is an excellent vehicle for learning and multi-tasking (not just for you, but your students too)! Blogs and social media are a great way to engage with your students on a level that they will appreciate (because it is current and relevant to their lives) and you can kill three birds (or concepts) with one stone in your job by encouraging blogging!

Technology. Braille. Social Interaction.

CTEBVI has set up this Donna Coffee Youth Scholarship blog featuring a new student recipient annually. Every few weeks, our recipient will blog or vlog (video blog) about an academic or social experience. This is a safe, moderated online environment where students can read the blog post and share their thoughts and experiences with others. The blog is accessible via computer, braille note taking device, tablet, smart phone. Use the blog in your technology lesson by navigating to different sections of the blog or writing comments tdo a post.

So your student isn’t quite experienced with technology to access the website? Copy and paste the text into Duxbury or Braille2000, emboss it and use the blog post with your student as part of their braille lesson or as their free reading material. Students can then use their Perkins or braille note taking device to write their own response to a particular blog post while working on spelling, contractions or formatting practice.

Social Interaction
This is perhaps the most important piece of the puzzle. Throughout my career, the common phrase I hear from students is that the are “the only kid who is visually impaired” (or at most, one of a few) in their school. Some of these students live in an area where they are the only ones for miles and miles who are blind/visually impaired while others might be fortunate enough to be a part of something like the Braille Institute Youth program and have peers in relatively close proximity. Though the blog doesn’t solve feelings of isolation or lonliness in their school, it will hopefully give them a way to interact with other young people by giving them a safe forum to share thoughts and connect.

We hope that as TVIs and O&Ms, you will read the blog and see the value in it for your students. Access it weekly, monthly or daily…whatever works for you and your students; we would love nothing more than to see a community for our students to share and interact and feel understood and inspired by one another.

What do you think?  Realistically, is this something you have time for? Are you doing something similar?  We want to hear from you!  Comment below or connect with us on social media!


Rope Swing of Pain

Heaven at Paul McCartney concert

Pictured (l-r): Allen, Lisa and Heaven at Paul McCartney Concert

October 14, 2014

When I posted my last blog I was getting ready to go to the King’s River for a weekend. It was really fun. We floated to Kelly’s Beach on a raft, and I went on a rope swing over the river that I now call the “rope swing of pain.” I wanted to swing over the river and drop into the water. When I swung off the bank of the river I went out far enough over the water, but I let go of the rope at the wrong time and fell into the shallow part of the water where there was a rock. I scraped my back on the rock and it hurt. Not fun like I thought it would be! I don’t know if I’ll try it again. Maybe I will if I could make sure there would be no rocks.

A week later I went to a running camp at the high school. We ran and then we got to swim. I went off the high dive for the first time ever. It was exciting! I think that next time I go off the high dive I might jump off backwards! I am enclosing a link to a video that shows me jumping. [Editors note:  come back next week for the video of Heaven’s jump off the high dive!]

A week after running camp, I went to see Paul McCartney in concert at Candlestick Park in San Francisco. I saw my braille teacher there and I’m enclosing a picture of her, me and my brother Allen that we took before the concert. It was a really good concert. The crowd was screaming with delight. Paul sang a song for his wife, there were fireworks, and there were three encores. This concert was extra special because it was the last event ever to be held at Candlestick Park. They are tearing it down.

Finally, school started and I started cross country again. At practice we did something new and ran backwards for a couple minutes. I’m not sure why, but I didn’t like it very much. It felt weird. Sometimes at Tuesday practices we get to run to Rite Aid and get ice cream! I get chocolate chip. It’s my favorite! Our first meet was a “fun run.” It means that they weren’t scoring, but the meets after that were scored, and we have won a couple of the meets.

Until next time,

A Goal Reached

Heaven on a tandem bicycle participating in her first triathlon.

Photo by: ABC10 San Diego

On May 4th I participated in my very first triathlon. A man named Sam, saw my documentary and sent it to Dave White at the Blind Stokers Club in San Diego. Then they contacted a man by the name of Joe Stine and he called my dad. He told my dad that he would bring me and my family to San Diego, and pay for everything, so that I could participate in the Spring Sprint Itsy Bitsy Triathlon. With my scholarship money from CTEBVI, I was able to pay for swim lessons, so that I could get ready for the triathlon. I also practiced on the tandem bike, and on Friday, May 2nd we went to San Diego. We were given a nice room at the Hilton, and everyone who helped my family and I get to San Diego came to a dinner at Aqua on Friday night. It was a very fancy restaurant. I had duck for the first time and it was tasty! On Saturday, I went to the Challenged Athletes Foundation (CAF) gym and a man named Samuel gave us a tour. I got to ride a wheelchair hand cycle. It was cool! I also met my guide for the triathlon, Katarina, at the gym. On Sunday, we got up really early and went down to the beach for the triathlon. There were news stations and they interviewed me. I am attaching a link to one of the news stories. Katarina found us and we got ready for the race. The first event was swimming – in the bay! It was the first time I ever swam in the ocean. I had to swim 100 yards. I had a wet suit on, but it was still cold! I sort of warmed up, and only my hands were cold. I had a tether tied to my waist and Katarina held the other end in her hand while we swam, so that I didn’t swim off into the ocean. The next event was the bike. The bike part was three miles. I was the only tandem bike rider there. It was a little different from my tandem bike, and had skinnier wheels. Finally, we got to run. The run was ¾ of a mile. I was tired, but I did it and finished my first triathlon! Yay! I want to do another triathlon this summer. It was really fun! On Sunday afternoon, the Blind Stokers Club got us tickets to a Padres game. The game was exciting and the Padres beat the Diamondbacks. The Padres game was one of my favorite things of the weekend! I want to thank everyone that helped me realize my goal of being in a triathlon. You guys are awesome!

Until next time,

To read a story about the triathlon: http://www.10news.com/sports/10-year-old-blind-girl-tackles-spring-sprint-triathlon-05042014

What Do You Think?


We are so excited that so many of you have discovered and are enjoying Heaven’s blogs. Heaven has loved writing and sharing her experiences with all of you. For those of you who are less comfortable with blogging and how this can be used as an education tool, we are here to help!

This blog is meant to be an interactive tool. We love that you are reading and supporting Heaven, but how many of you are sharing this with your students? How many of you are letting Heaven know that you support her? Heaven’s first blog post received quite a bit of activity and comments and she just loved knowing that people were reading her blog and letting her know what they thought about it.

Blogging & vlogging is a new process for not just Heaven but CTEBVI also and we all want to know what you think. Comment below and let us know what you think. What do you want to see on the blog? We have some great ideas and feature coming up including how to use this blog with your students in their classrooms. Blogging as an educational tool? Yes! We are just getting started and will include lesson plan ideas too. Stay tuned!