Minnesota Hands and Voices


High Five Awards

High Five Design Image

Nominations for High Five Awards are accepted annually from May 1st to July 1st. Help us recognize the amazing individuals in our community!

Parents are invited to nominate another parent, teacher, interpreter, medical provider, community advocate, role model who is deaf or hard of hearing, child who is deaf or hard of hearing—anyone who inspires your family!

To nominate someone, we ask parents for a 200 word or less explanation of
1) what the nominee has done above and beyond what is typical for their role and
2) how this individual has made an impact on your child and/or the community. At least one specific example is very helpful.

To assist our Advisory Board when choosing recipients, we ask for only one nomination per family per year.

Email your nomination to and include in the subject line “High Five Award”.

MNH&V staff will compile and forward the submissions to our Advisory Board who will select one or more winners to be announced at the next Annual Metro Family Picnic. If a nominee and/or family nominating is from outside the Metro area and therefore not attending the picnic, recognition will take place in that community if they are selected.


2015 MN Hands & Voices' "High Five" Award Winners


Photo of Barbara Friedman

Barbara Friedman - Audiologist with the University of Minnesota Medical Center/Masonic Children’s Hospital.

Barbara has been a tireless advocate for the profession of audiology and the deaf and hard-of-hearing community. She has volunteered much of her free time educating the public about hearing loss and its impact. 

Because of Barbara’s perseverance during the early days of pediatric cochlear implants, a well-known and respected pediatric cochlear implant program now exists at the University of Minnesota. She has devoted her career to ensuring that patients achieve their full potential with whatever technology or communication method families choose.

The testament to her impact can be seen at annual follow-up appointments with her patients who are now adults. She has treated generations of family members, and each spring, her mailbox overflows with invitations to graduation parties and weddings of current or former patients who consider her to be an integral part of their lives.


Anna Paulson High Five Award Winner

Anna Paulson Coordinator of The Commission of Deaf, DeafBlind, and Hard of Hearing Minnesotans

 Anna Paulson was nominated to receive the “High Five” award for her work to add parents as attendees and participants to the annual education conference, which this year was titled, 2015 Collaborative Experience for Professionals and Parents. The conference, April 16th through the 19th, 2015, was divided into three sections. The first part was geared to professionals; the last part was specifically for parents, allowing for an overlap in the middle for both parents and professionals. Anna, Coordinator of The Commission of Deaf, DeafBlind, and Hard of Hearing Minnesotans, worked in collaboration with MNH&V and other stakeholders to organize the conference. Skip and Kathy, parents of an older student who is DHH, appreciated the opportunity to communicate with their partners, the professionals, and giving their son a “voice” at the conference. Skip and Kathy wrote, “It was a marvelous experience, because of Anna’s efforts. Following the conference, we are working with our son to promote his self-advocacy at school and in extra-curricular activities.”


Jennie Hasse and Kris Hemstock

Jennie Hasse - Parent of two children with hearing loss

 Jennie, along with her husband Joe, have two children ages 5 & 2 with bilateral, sensorineural hearing loss.Jennie works relentlessly to ensure they receive the educational programming needed to succeed. Working closely with our school district to develop solid IEP’s for our kids and makes sure they are challenged so they can reach their full potential. She is not shy to reach out to other families who have kids with hearing loss and offer help and support or to professionals in the field to find out what else we could/should be doing for our kids Many new friendships have been made and she’s fostered good relationships with very knowledgeable professionals outside of our school district. Jennie is just amazing and I could not be more proud of her and all she does for our kids.


High Five Receipients
Pictured from left to right: Joe Rodekuhr and Katie Barth

Joe Rodekuhr - Teacher of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing

Joe was hired at Willow Creek Middle School, Rochester, MN, as a teacher for students who are DHH when Kay Wiegert’s son was just starting 7th grade. Kay shared that before meeting him she was skeptical because she was unsure if Joe had any formal training and experience in DHH education. It did not take long for Kay to have a change of heart. “I could see Joe’s enthusiasm when talking about my son’s progress and how eager he was to learn all he could about this very specialized area,” wrote Kay. At one point Kay’s son had major technical issues with his hearing aids. She was frustrated trying to explain the issues to the sales representative. Kay adds, “Joe began documenting everything he observed as well as what my son told him. In the end, Joe’s documentation helped convince the hearing aid sales rep that there was in fact major issues with his aids and gave my son brand new hearing aids!” Joe is currently studying DHH Education at the University of Minnesota, commuting from Rochester to the Twin Cities to attend night classes after his day of teaching at the middle school.


(Katie Barth is also pictured in the previous photo)

Katie Barth -Teacher of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing

“Ms Katie” has been an instrumental role model, teacher, and friend to the DHH students in Rochester MN. Katie is hard of hearing and wears bilateral hearing aids. Her personal experience and Wealth of Knowledge extraordinarily shines in the classroom, with the parents and with her interactions with the classroom teacher.   She actively seeks opportunities to advance her students with preschool programs, social language programs, summer programs and working closely with classroom structure and audiology to provide the right resources. Parents are so engaged with Katie Barth and the Rochester Program that they often have fundraisers each year to keep up with the needs of the DHH students.

Education to the parents beyond the classroom has been excellent. Parents have often felt that her ideas are innovative, have good foresight, are proactive, and incorporate students and parents’ wishes without any reservation.  She demonstrates and defines “team work!” She excels with “effective communication” to actively engage the children. She has a keen eye for subtle observations in the classroom and can actively manage a large variety of DHH students and their needs.

“We are so blessed to have had Katie Barth as our daughter’s DHH teacher and our friend. The lifelong impact on the lives of the DHH children and families in Rochester MN will never be forgotten. The children will be living proof as they all have bright futures and have the building stones for success.”  - Emilee and John Scheid.


2014 MN Hands & Voices' "High Five" Award Winners

Anna Kohrs - Intervener for DeafBlind Children

My family would like to recognize our son's community intervener for her commitment to advocating for our son and pushing him to be the best. We have been truly blessed to have such a wonderful, kind hearted person.


Edith Koranda

Edith Koranda - Paraprofessional

Edith is Deaf and has worked with the Deaf children at Metro Deaf School for 20 years!
Her children are grown yet she's there every day with our preschoolers tending their many needs and those are many!

She loves her job and even hand makes gifts for the children at the special holidays of the year! The children love her too.  She gives them a sense of safety, stability, and consistency on a daily basis.

She has been a great support to me as a mother of a Deaf child. She encourages me and helps with my learning ASL.  I never feel judged when I'm not so good at it.
I could go on and on.

This woman is the epitome of giving back to her community!

We love Edith!  Thanks so much!


Rebecca Goffman

Rebecca Goffman - Psychologist

Dr. Goffman has been an amazing help to our family over the past year.

Her knowledge of issues facing deaf youth and their families as well as her ability to distinguish those issues from other mental health issues was instrumental in helping us strengthen our family and improve quality of life for our son.

She trained our whole family in strategies for dealing with various situations that were difficult and the result is that those situations are MUCH easier for us. Her one-on-one work with our son really helped him build some great habits and skills as well.

In addition to her outstanding work as a therapist (including weekly home visits!), she went above and beyond for our son by attending IEP meetings. At those meetings she helped make sure that he was being addressed as a whole person instead of just focusing on a few aspects of being deaf.

We are truly grateful for the work she's done with our family.


Sharon Greene

Sharon Greene - CI/CT Sign Language Interpreter

Sharon is a certified CI/CT Sign Language Interpreter who works with my son. She has worked with him for the last 2 years, starting in preschool. From day one she has treated him with such care & compassion and has gone above & beyond what I ever expected out of an interpreter. My son relies on Sharon not only for his language access, but also as a friend/guiding hand during his school days. Sharon also helped facilitate getting his FM system integrated into the school's sound system, so during any auditorium activity, he can access that full sound.

Here is an excerpt from my son's homeroom teacher: "Sharon does an exceptional job at teaching him sign and interpreting at the same time.  She also encourages others in the class in using simple signs when they can. She is great at staying on top of special events and programs that come to school and gets the information ahead of time so she can study any special signs and be prepared so he gets the most out of the program. She also has been very helpful in explaining to everyone what her role is and why she might need to be in a certain spot in the room or why a kid may need to move slightly so he has a clear sight of the speaker and herself.  She is fabulous and he has learned so much from her in such a short time". We are much appreciated of having Sharon in our lives!



2013 MN Hands & Voices' "High Five" Award Winners

Marnie Wilson
Marnie Wilson, Emory Dively (MNCDHH), Trixie Golberg (Lifetrack President), Corinne McCalla (Parent)

Marnie Wilson - Deaf Mentor

Marnie is our Deaf Mentor through the Deaf Mentor Family Program. Our daughter is 4 years old and has a moderate hearing loss that is progressive. As parents, we desperately wanted to learn ASL. Fortunately, we were selected to receive a mentor in June 2012. We were introduced to Marnie and she has been our biggest supporter and advocate ever since.

We have learned so much about Minnesota's deaf community and culture which has helped us connect with other DHH families and events. There is no better feeling than that of relating to another person or family. Marnie has showed us that we're not alone. She goes above and beyond her "job" requirements and genuinely wants us to all be successful and confident with ASL. She is the most positive, funny, patient, open, honest and genuine person I know. She had her husband and 3 children visit us so that our daughter could see other children signing and interact with them, as we are the only family in our town hard of hearing. Marnie knew how important that would be for our daughter to experience and it was a great time! She also set up a play date with another DHH family in our surrounding area so we could get to know them as well. She is our inspiration to challenge ourselves, learn and be the best parents we can be for our little girl.

Candace Lindow-Davies (MNHV Manager), Emory Dively (MNCDHH), Sonjay Sivarajah, Rhonda Sivarajah (Parent), Ran Sivarajah (Parent), Trixie Golberg (Lifetrack President)

Sonjay Sivarajah - Student

Sonjay’s scholarship, character, leadership, and service to the community make him an excellent candidate. He is an amazing young man! I have known Sonjay as one of his teachers for over 16 years. He is a serious student, who has just the right mix of determination, energy, intelligence, independence, curiosity, and drive. He has always been a likable young man with an infectious smile, and who is social, athletic, and active in the community in which he lives.  He has not only done well in his studies, but he has excelled, earning honor roll status throughout high school. 

 His desire to be actively involved in his class appeared early in his elementary years, with his election to the student council, and then later chosen as the 4th grade student council representative and as a 5th grader, student council treasurer. It was during elementary school, Sonjay won a national award, The Oticon Focus on People Award, in which he was recognized for his involvement in his community and for his citizenship.  As a Centennial Middle School student, Sonjay yearly gave tours and in-serviced upcoming 5th grade students as they transitioned into the middle school setting. Sonjay mentored a Centennial District deaf elementary student and became a high school peer leader during his junior and senior years of high school. During his senior year, he also mentored a deaf student in a neighboring school district. He helped conduct Kindness Retreats for elementary-aged students throughout Centennial School District and was selected to be in the National Honor Society while he was a junior. It was also during his senior year that Sonjay was cast to appear in a Target employee training video about ADA (Americans With Disabilities Act). That video was to raise their employee’s awareness of Target’s guests who may have a disability.  

 In his after-school hours, Sonjay has been active in athletics and summer sport camps. He earned “Honorable Mention”, lettered in academics and won the “Most Improved Player” during the 2010 soccer season.  He won the honors of “Mr. Hustle” and “The Best Role Model MVP” awards during basketball camp. He found time to volunteer for the CBA tournaments, running the clocks and scorekeeping.

Even with a busy academic and sports schedule throughout the year, Sonjay has taken time to be directly involved with his local community.  He volunteered with “Feed the Starving Children” by bagging food. He was part of the Bridging experience, where he helped assemble furniture for needy people. Throughout high school, Sonjay participated in the Community Backpack drive, filling back backs with supplies for the needy at Eagle Brook Church. Sonjay has also been a “Neighborhood Friend” to his older neighbors, cutting raspberry bushes, feeding chickens, and doing various jobs around their property. 

Looking back at the lengthy and varied list of activities in which Sonjay has been involved during his years at Centennial, it’s commendable for any high school student. With Sonjay, his accomplishments are even much more impressive than most, as Sonjay has done all this while facing many challenges every day that his peers do not. Sonjay was born profoundly deaf and he has a cochlear implant. He has excelled in spite of challenges of acquiring knowledge, communication and language. He is a bright, wonderful young man, who I know will go far in his education, pursuing his dreams and remaining active in the community in which he lives. His insight, patience, and kindness will continue to move him forward.

Audrey Alwell
Candace Lindow-Davies (MNHV Coordinator), Trixie Golberg (Lifetrack President), Jim Herold, Audrey Alwell

Audrey Alwell - MNH&V FOCUS Newsletter Editor (through July 2013)


Diana van Deusen - Audiologist

I as a parent I would like to nominate Diana van Deusen for the work she has done for me, my daughter, and many other students and parents. Without her help it would had been very hard for me regardless, if it’s battery, earmold, and many more… that words that cannot be expressed. Thank you so much!

Diana provides outstanding audiological services for children with hearing loss in St. Paul Public Schools. Diana is a patient educator for families of children with hearing loss, helping them understand their children's hearing and communication needs. Diana seeks out opportunities to educate and advocate for culturally, linguistically diverse parents.  She is a supportive and conscientious colleague; her follow through and consistent monitoring are wonderful assets for our team.  Diana is also a skilled and popular presenter and offers training and professional development opportunities to multiple professional groups including licensed educators, paraprofessionals (including sign language interpreters), her own colleagues in audiology, and others who are interested in her areas of expertise.  We consider it a privilege to include Diana among our most esteemed colleagues and thank you for this opportunity to recognize her talents and achievements.   

Jodi Ellis-Miller - Deaf and Hard of Hearing Teacher

Our family moved last Spring, and our biggest concern was finding a good school for our son who is DHH. We ended up enrolling him at a school other than the local one. Initially, he was assigned to attend the neighborhood school. But being that it was an older school, with the "open school" format, we knew this would not work for him. 

Jodi was very instrumental in the transition of our son from his former school to the new one. She went out of her way to be at every meeting, she sends us weekly sometimes daily updates on our son's progress in school. She even planned an in service power point presentation for his classroom and also teachers on the cochlear implant-most if not all were not educated about it.  She even made our son part of the presentation. :) There was some bullying going on in the classroom, and Jodi created an atmosphere or understanding for our son's classmates to better understand him. Our son really struggled with wanting to belong, and make friends. Jodi set up a "listening buddy" system in the classroom, this has been such a success. She also made sure that the FM system was set up properly.

We appreciate her so much, there aren't a lot of school aged children that are DHH in the district-she deals more with high school students. So for her to continue to find resources, activities, camps for our son to get involved in really shows she cares. We were going to move our son to another school this Fall, but decided to keep him at the current location because Jodi and the rest of the team have worked so hard, and continues to see that our son succeeds in his education.


2012 MN Hands & Voices’ “High Five” Award Winners

Amber Frome High Five Award 2012
Amy Caslow (Parent), Amber Frome, Candace Lindow-Davies (MNHV Coordinator)

Amber Frome - Speech Therapist for Children's Therapy Center (dually licensed in WI and MN)

Amber has been seeing my little guy since he was 3 months old...she goes out of her way to always provide the tools we need to continue advancing his speech...and signing. She has been one of his strongest advocates and goes out of her way for all of her patients.

On her own time, she has organized a monthly Play Group for all of the local DHH children and families to come together to let the kiddos play with their peers and allow the parents to have fellowship with other parents...asking questions and helping each other out.

I am thrilled that I have made local connections with several friends for [my son]...Amber is young and full of energy....always on her toes!!! We are so blessed to have had her be a part of our Birth to 3 team here.

Heidi Wefel High Five Award 2012
Heidi Wefel, Amy Caslow (Parent), Candace Lindow-Davies (MNHV Coordinator)

Heidi Wefel - Teacher for the Deaf/hard of Hearing (Wisconsin border)

She just took us on about 8 months ago and the work she puts in to lessons for our family is tremendous!! She always has tools for us and works very hard at making everything applicable to our lifestyle! She has a huge heart for her kids...and it shows!!

Heidi is contracted with our local B-3 program and with New Richmond Schools as well...

Jackie Hanson High Five Award Photo
Emily Anderson and family, Jackie Hanson


Jackie Hanson - Teacher of the Deaf/Hard of Hearing (NE Metro)

Since last year when all three of our children were diagnosed with a mild/moderate hearing loss and they all got hearing aids she has been an outstanding support and advocate for all of our children. Even though my oldest didn't qualify for services, she stepped into her classroom and helped [my daughter] tell her class about her hearing aids, she made sure the teacher was prepared to help her with them if she needed it. She has helped my son in using the FM system at his private preschool which ended up being a big job because it took several times to get all the programs working together. She has been there for support as my baby was constantly taking out her hearing aids whether it was through ideas to get them to stay on or encouragement for me to keep putting them back in.

Right now, she's making a really neat book with pictures from [my other daughter’s] environment and putting the sign on the page too so we can be practicing that. She is always giving me interesting things to read, ideas for activities to do with the children, and other resources that are available. Jackie is kind, gentle, patient, and has helped hearing aids become normal in our house.

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