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Kristin Grender '02

Kristin GrenderDistinguished Alumni Award for Community/Regional Service

As someone who grew up around educators, Kristin Grender came to UW-Whitewater knowing that her path would be teaching.

"The hardest part was deciding what kind of teacher I wanted to be, as I am interested in so many different facets of education."

Grender considered teaching art and history, which she especially enjoys, as well as early childhood education and school psychology. And special education meant a lot to her because of her experience with a childhood friend of the family.

As a sophomore she took a special education class with Theresa Ochoa where she participated in a portable reflective teaching project. When Ochoa asked her if she wanted to do undergraduate research, she jumped at the chance, which included the opportunity to present at a national conference.

After graduation, she stumbled upon specializing in visual impairment because in her first teaching job almost half of her special education students had a visual impairment. Her efforts to better meet her students' needs led to additional training and certification, two master's degrees —  one in teaching children with visual impairments and another in orientation and mobility with children —  and serving on a team through the National Science Foundation that creates accessible astronomy software and tools for the visually impaired.

Her work garnered Grender a 2017 Herb Kohl fellowship, and she is also a published author: "White Cane Day" is a children's book that explains the importance of October 15, which celebrates the achievements of people who are visually impaired.

Her ties with UW-Whitewater continue. Grender regularly brings her students on campus tours using a tactile 3D map developed by Professor of Physics Steve Sayhun and visits education classes taught by her longtime mentor, Professor of Education Sharon Kolb, to talk about how to best teach students with vision impairments and deafblindness.

Her work has broadened her impact.

"As a vision impairments and orientation and mobility teacher, I have students of all ages and am part of many different classrooms."

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