Sometimes, the award winners in our midst are with us because they have a connection to a community partner. The Iowa Education Service for the Blind and Visually Impaired (IESBVI) has been a valuable ally to Des Moines Public Schools. Five years ago, Brian Werts began working with our students as an orientation and mobility specialist. The work he does has earned him the Board of Regents, State of Iowa’s Faculty Excellence Award.

At DMPS, Werts works with 15-20 students who have visual impairments that may experience difficulty traveling as a result of their vision loss. He also supports other school districts in the Heartland AEA service area.

“What inspired me to join education and the field of vision was because I have a visual impairment as well,” said Werts. “I received the same services that I now provide. I saw the impact that these services played on my life. I feel that allows me to advocate better, connect with my students and possibly impart some wisdom that assists them on their life journey.”

In addition to his work inside the school building, Werts is focused on making life more accessible and enjoyable for students in the community.

“Knowing the opportunities that haven’t always been offered or are not inclusive of children with vision impairments, I want to do my part in making sure those opportunities are offered and they are positive and empowering experiences for all the participants,” said Werts.

Orientation and mobility specialists teach students with visual impairments to travel safety, confidently and independently in their school and community environments. According to Jonathan Karli, IESBVI Regional Director and Werts’ supervisor, Werts exceeds expectations in his position.

“He sets a high standard for his students and works tirelessly to support his students in meeting those high standards,” said Karli. “He is effective in communicating these expectations to parents and teachers. In education, we know it often takes a team – Brian is aware of this and communicates with others to support the orientation and mobility skills of the students he serves.”

Werts earned his master’s degree from Northern Illinois University. He currently holds Iowa licensure in orientation and mobility and national Certification in Vision Rehabilitation & Education Professionals Werts received the award during the Board of Regents meeting on November 10 in Council Bluffs.

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