Sue Schmidberger, Parent Glen Rock, NJ
Sue is the parent of 23 year old Paige, who was first implanted at the age of 3½ and received her second implant at the age of 18. Retired after a 30 year sales career at Xerox, she now runs her own organizational consulting company. In 1997, she founded a support group for parents of hearing impaired children at Long Island Jewish Hospital that still meets every month. As a member of AG Bell National’s Parent Section Advisory Council, she developed a database to connect AG Bell parents across the country (Hearing Loss Parent Family Link – HeLPFL). She’s also served as a member of the parent advisory group for the Bergen County Special Services District and attended federal summits for pepnet2 to help improve the postsecondary outcomes for individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing. Currently, she works on events for Clarke NYC, works on the NJ Walk4Hearing, and serves as president for the NJ Chapter of AG Bell. She is also working with AG Bell national to organize its archives and the Volta Bureau. Her latest responsibility is to serve as the national Chapter Advisor. Sue continues to volunteer her time to ensure that every child with hearing loss has the same successful outcome as her daughter, who is a junior at Adelphi University majoring in Communication Sciences and Disorders with the goal to become an audiologist.
Joe Catanese, Parent Wyckoff, NJ
Joe is a CPA, who spent 30 years as an Accounting and Finance professional, responsible for driving organizational improvements, optimizing information technologies and establishing best practice business processes. Joe was instrumental in developing the current NJ-AJB website and is currently serving as its Web Master. He is the parent of Georgia, who was bilaterally implanted, (first @ 15 months, second @ 7years old). Georgia entered the Hearing Impaired Program in Midland Park at age 3 and currently attends the 12th grade in the Secondary Hearing Impaired Program in Midland Park High School and will be attending Quinnipiac University in the Fall. She will major in Athletic Training as a prerequisite for attaining a Physical Therapy advanced degree. Joe has been an NJAG Bell board member since 2014 and dedicates his participation in memory of his wife Donna, who spent many years counseling parents of recently diagnosed hearing impaired infants, on the benefits of cochlear implants and in honor of the many hearing impaired professional, who help children like Georgia, to achieve their listening and spoken language goals.
Larry Fennelly, Parent Metuchen, NJ
Larry Fennelly is 20 year veteran in the Hospitality industry. Throughout his years he has opened and operated more than 15 different restaurant locations. His experiences in the restaurant industry has helped him develop skills in all areas of finance, culinary, organization, and most importantly the ability to build and work within a successful team. He is currently the General Manager for Charlie Brown’s Fresh Grill Edison location. Larry lives in Metuchen New Jersey with his wife Sarafina and their two children Laurence and Angelina. Three years ago his daughter was diagnosed with severe to profound bi-lateral hearing loss. From that moment on Larry and his family were on the journey to finding a way for Angelina to gain access to sound and spoken language. After 10 months Angelina was bilaterally implanted with cochlear implants. Larry and his wife have worked tirelessly to ensure Angelina’s success with her implants and she has thrived. After having so many people and resources contribute to Angelina’s success, Larry and his wife have made it a priority to pay it back and help other families that have children with hearing loss. When not tending to work and family Larry tries to lead an athletic lifestyle, he has competed in multiple obstacle course style races and is an avid cyclist and golfer.
Jamie Grasso, LSLS Denville, NJ
Jamie Grasso is a Listening and Spoken Language Specialist (LSLS) and a certified P.R.O.M.P.T. therapist. For the past thirteen years, Jamie has worked as speech language pathologist at the Hearing Impaired Program in Midland Park, NJ, a program offered by Bergen County Special Services. Jamie also has conducted a private practice since 2001. In her work Jamie has seen significant success with the use of the Auditory Verbal approach in combination with the P.R.O.M.P.T. system, a tactile-kinesthetic approach to improving speech intelligibility.
Her most important role is caring for her two young daughters, the youngest of which has a moderate conductive hearing loss. When Jamie first realized her professional life had prepared her very well for her parental life, she went through typical stages of grief: anger, denial, acceptance, action, avoidance… Her daughter’s hearing journey continues currently. Jamie and her husband, Michael, have addressed their daughter’s hearing loss in many ways: through Early Intervention with Teacher of the Deaf services, speech and language services by a listening and spoken language specialist, aggressive medical intervention (i.e. PE Tubes, Adenoid removal), consistent and frequent audiological and ENT evaluations, using a BAHA soft band hearing aid, enrolling her in a preschool inclusion class with hearing impaired and typical hearing peers called Sound Start Babies in Mountain Lakes, NJ, and now being taught in a Preschool Disabled inclusion classroom in her home district.
Being a professional member of the oral deaf education community and a parent who has gone through the process “on the other side,” Jamie is hopeful to be a source of information and to give help to any of those who need it.
Kate Hoy, Teacher of the Deaf Mountain Lakes, NJ
Kate Hoy is a Teacher of the Deaf at Sound Start Babies in Mountain Lakes, New Jersey. She leads the Listening and Spoken Language classroom in the Sound Start Nursery, New Jersey’s only full-day early intervention program for toddlers. Children attending the program range from 18 – 36 months in an inclusive setting for both children with and without hearing loss. She also works with families and their babies (0-3 years) in the home setting to incorporate strategies and techniques for developing language into their everyday routines. Kate became a Listening and Spoken Language certified AVEd therapist in 2015.
At the age of six, Kate was diagnosed with a mild-moderate hearing loss and began wearing hearing aids. Kate always enjoyed working with children but after she completed her education at The College of New Jersey, she knew that teaching children who are deaf or hard of hearing was her passion.
Krystyna Makowski, M.E.D., Teacher of the Deaf, Teacher of Biological Science
The main lesson my parents taught me was the importance of human connection; a person expresses love by putting in genuine effort to build a path to communication. My family did not discover I was profoundly deaf until I was about 6 months old. During that time, cochlear implants were not yet FDA approved for toddlers. With English being my parents’ second language, they were naturally overwhelmed with the prospect of learning another language. Despite this challenge, my family learned sign language in order to communicate with me.
I attended a total communication (TC) program and received speech therapy along with services such as sign language interpreters. It was not until I was seven years old when I received a cochlear implant. I later transferred to an auditory-oral program and started using the approach of listening and spoken language (LSL). After graduating from high school, I studied Biology at Montclair State University and attended graduate school at Smith College to obtain a degree in Master of Education for the Deaf. This allowed me to combine both interests by becoming a Biology Teacher of the Deaf for high school students. As a deaf adult, my personal mission is to serve as a mentor to adolescents during their transitional period from high school to college.
My circuitous journey from my first signs and spoken words to becoming an educator has influenced my teaching philosophy. Reflecting upon my school years, I am mindful of how significant communication is, especially in the classroom. As a person who experienced both modalities (TC and LSL) while growing up, I am a strong advocate of language accessibility. Regardless of the modality a family chooses, having access is so vital to the deaf child’s language development. I hope to use my personal experience to educate parents about the importance of providing language access to their deaf children. After all, communication is the true language of love.
Brick Reilly, Springfield, NJ
Brick Reilly is 36 year-old New Jersey native. Brick was born was born profoundly deaf and his family didn’t discover that until he was two years of age. He wore hearing aids until he turned 22 years old, and then received his Cochlear Implant. He is an alumnus of Summit Speech School in New Providence, NJ.
He resides in Springfield, New Jersey with his wife Tracey, and their two children, Ruby and Slate. He is a professional arborist, tree climber specialist, tree climbing competitor and soon to be certified tree expert. He has been proactive member of the tree care industry for 15 years. On the competition circuit, he enjoys the close-knit community of climbing arborists who share the latest knowledge of how to do dangerous tree work safely, and efficiently.
Brick’s passion for recreational tree climbing has opened an entrepreneurial door for him and his business partner. Together they invented a product called Vibe, to help him during tree care operations, and it turned out to be something that will help the industry altogether. They are currently in the manufacturing stage now and looking forward to having it ready for the market in November 2017.
Due to his experience on American Gladiator, Brick was asked to meet and greet attendees of the 2016 AG Bell Convention in Denver, Colorado. That experience opened his eyes to how much AG Bell is involved in the importance of the listening and spoken language. The trip sparked a desire for Brick to be involved on a deeper level. One of the unfortunate experiences that Brick dealt with growing up was being the ONLY deaf kid in school, sports and all social situations. He did not have a mentor or someone to coach him through tough times; even family members didn’t know what he was experiencing. Because of this experience, Brick is always willing to be a coach for up and coming kids and teenagers, to simply listen and/or help. From there, he looks to understand the chapter structure and see where else he can learn and provide more support as a board member.
Susan Robertson, Parent Lakehurst, NJ
Gina P. Thomas, Parent Nutley, NJ
Gina is mom to two beautiful children, wife to Stanley and an accountant. Gina started as a board member in the HLAA New Jersey Chapter and is also a board member for the NJ Essex County Chapter. She has worked the NJ Walk4Hearing helping manage the children’s activities. The family attended the AG Bell Convention in Denver, CO, in 2016 after being awarded a special Family Convention Scholarship.
She is the parent of 5-year-old Giana who was implanted at the age of 18 months. Giana started attending the Summit Speech School when she was an infant and then moved on to the Bergen County Hearing Impaired Program in Midland Park at the age of three. She currently attends the Bergen County Union Street School in Hackensack. Giana is a little fighter and full of life. Gina has elected to join the board of NJ AG Bell for her daughter Giana. She wants to continue her advocacy on helping children with hearing loss to achieve their listening and spoken language goals. She especially wants to be a supporter of new parents who have just received the news that their child has a hearing loss.