Our Team

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The FAVI team, 2012

The Florida and Virgin Islands (FAVI) Deaf-Blind Collaborative team are five professionals who combine our backgrounds of education and experience to develop trainings and resources that benefit Florida’s children, young adults, families, and educational teams affected by deaf-blindness.

We also work together to develop individualized, child-centered solutions that address the strengths and needs of children and young adults with deaf-blindness throughout the state.

FAVI STAFF

Regina Bussing, M.D., M.S.H.S., Project Director

Regina Bussing has served as the Principal Investigator and Project Director since 2007. She has extensive administrative and grant management experience, and has closely collaborated with LEAs and State health agencies for many years. She is board certified in child and adolescent psychiatry and has a degree in public health, with a particular emphasis on enhancing access to care for underserved minorities. Regina provides liaison to the College of Medicine, assists in strengthening connections to Children’s Medical Services and the Department of Health, and to provide expertise in the areas of behavioral management, seizure disorders, movement disorders, and neurological disorders, some of which cause deaf-blindness. Regina works closely with FAVI Deaf-Blind Collaborative staff to support implementation of program goals, mobilizes resources, improves use of technology to support the mission and guides program evaluation efforts. She received her medical degree from the Justus Liebig University in Germany, her public health degree from the University of California, Los Angeles, and completed her residency and fellowship training at the University of Florida. Regina enjoys visits with her family in Germany, traveling, stained glass, and getting spoiled by her husband Tom’s excellent cooking.

Angel Perez, MA, MS, Assistant Director

Angel has been working in the field of sensory disabilities for over sixteen years. Her collaborative activities have included working with the National Center on Deaf-Blindness (NCDB) as a host/instructor for the Open Hands Open Access (OHOA) training modules and with the University of Colorado’s Para2 Center as a mentor/reviewer for Nation Intervener Certification E-portfolio (NICE). Angel has worked previously as a Project Director/Deaf-Blind Specialist for the New Jersey Center on Deaf-Blindness and an Adjunct Professor at The College of New Jersey. Prior to her work with in New Jersey, Angel served as a Hearing and Vision Specialist and Educational Interpreter in her home state of Alabama.

Angel’s education includes a Master of Arts degree in Visual Impairments, a Master of Science degree in Communication Disorders and Deafness, and a baccalaureate degree in Special Education. She is also trained in the Orton Gillingham approach for education of students with dyslexia. Currently, Angel is a PhD candidate in Vision Science Research, with an emphasis in Sensory Disabilities, through the university of Alabama at Birmingham. Angel has received honors as a Helen Keller fellow and a fellow of the National Leadership Consortium for Sensory Disabilities. Her areas of interest include literacy, technology, clinical research, and life-long learning. Angel has a passion for teaching and serving in the deaf-blind community.

Michelle (Wahlmeier) Pearson, MA Deaf Ed, Gallaudet, Project Coordinator

As Project Coordinator, Michelle leads FAVI’s interagency collaborations with a variety of national and state partners to address issues affecting the deaf-blind community. She promotes the initiatives of the Deaf-Blind technical assistance and dissemination network and the priorities of families, public school programs, educators, and service providers serving children and youth who are Deaf-Blind. Michelle provides child/youth-centered technical assistance, consultation, and training to assist infants and toddlers, school-aged individuals, and young adults transitioning to adult life. She partners with individuals and agencies throughout the state of Florida. Michelle also continues FAVI’s valuable partnerships with educators, service providers, agencies, and families in the US Virgin Islands: St Croix, St John, and St Thomas.

As Michelle identifies the needs of individuals and teams, she makes referrals to appropriate agencies and other professionals. Michelle also disseminates information regarding project supports, state resources, and national programs. By participating on various committees, Michelle helps to plan and initiate systemic-change initiatives and other capacity-building activities. She helps individuals and organizations to implement effective/promising practices to improve the inclusion of individuals who are Deaf-Blind in their schools and communities.

Michelle joined the FAVI Deaf-Blind Collaborative after teaching Deaf Ed in public schools for 10 years and teaching American Sign Language (ASL) at Central Florida Community College for 3 years. Her background of experience also includes freelance interpreting and interpreting in mass. Michelle enjoys spending time with her family, going to Deaf Club, and sports.

Shelly Voelker, M.Ed., Ed.S., Ed.D., Family & Education Specialist

Shelly worked in the classroom as a Special Education teacher and reading specialist for eight years. She has also worked as a Medicaid Waiver Support Coordinator serving individuals and families affected by developmental and multiple disabilities.  Shelly and her husband William are the directors of Noah’s Endeavor, Inc: Inclusive Community Recreation, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that celebrates the life of their late son, Noah Adam Voelker, who was affected by deaf-blindness and other disabilities.

Shelly received her doctoral degree in Special Education from the University of Florida in December 2013.  She currently teaches courses in the College of Education–for the Disabilities In Society minor, TeachWell online advanced degree, and Early Childhood certification programs.

Shelly has served as a member of the Area 3 Family Care Council (FCC) and the Center for Autism & Related Disabilities (CARD-UF, Gainesville) constituency board.  She has collaborated with Children’s Medical Services, the Agency for Persons with Disabilities, the Children’s Home Society, Parents Helping Parents of Florida, Partnership for Strong Families, the Special Olympics, and the Florida Disabled Outdoors Association to expand the opportunities available to individuals and families affected by multiple disabilities.

Shelly’s areas of interest include literacy, assistive and educational technologies, augmentative and alternative communication (AAC), and transition. She draws on her experiences as a parent, special educator, support coordinator, and community organizer as she advocates for children and families affected by disabilities. Shelly contributes 20+ years of experience and resources to the FAVI Deaf-Blind Collaborative.

Pam Kissoondyal, Family Engagement Coordinator

Pam enjoys her job as a Family Engagement Coordinator – working with families who have children with special needs; including Deaf-Blindness. Pam partners with agencies and professionals in related fields. She has presented on a variety of disability-related topics at local, regional, state, national and international conferences—including keynotes. As a collaborative partner with other Deaf-Blind programs, Pam serves as a mentor and facilitator on several activities to enrich and enhance Family Engagement. Her first-hand experience of parenting a child with special needs makes an easy transition into the shoes of a sympathetic and empathetic guide, to help parents navigating complex and stressful situations. Familiarity and experience with multiple community programs and organizations for families with special needs children is an added bonus when working with families. Pam loves to learn! She has over 20 years of experience and continues her education by attending conferences, webinars on topics with family centered/partnership approach. She has received training in the INSITE, SKI-HI and VIISA models and is a Florida Partners and Policy Making Graduate. Pam is also a Certified Infant Massage Teacher, Certified Life Coach and Certified Success Principle trainer.

Emily Taylor-Snell, M.Ed., Consultant
(Former Project Coordinator)

Emily Taylor-Snell served as Project Coordinator for the FAVI Deaf-Blind Collaborative for 16 years. She fulfilled multiple essential roles, providing technical assistance to families, groups and in the schools, and leading FAVI’s interagency collaborations. Emily also extended the resources of the FAVI Deaf-Blind Collaborative into the Virgin Islands. Emily helped to assess the needs of individuals and families in the islands who are affected by deaf-blindness. Additionally, Emily helped educators and service providers determine the models of support that would best meet the needs of children and families in St. Croix, St. Thomas, and St. John.

Emily joined the FAVI Deaf-Blind Collaborative after holding the Project Coordinator position for a federally funded deaf-blind project serving Ohio and Wisconsin for 11 years. In Ohio, she provided staff development for a county board on mental retardation and developmental disabilities and taught Advanced Behavior Management for Students with Multiple Handicaps at the University of Dayton. Emily also contributed to numerous committees for brain injury, vision and hearing, early intervention and transition. She served as a state trainer for SKI*HI, INSITE and VIISA early intervention curriculum models. In her native California, Emily worked for the State Department of Education conducting educational assessments. She also spent 10 years teaching students with mild to severe disabilities in a school district in San Diego. She received both her Bachelor and Master degrees from the University of San Diego. For fun, Emily enjoys traveling, reading, gardening, and she hopes to try her hand at stained glass.