Awards and Scholarship

Three awards and one scholarship are given each year to recognize individuals who have made a difference in the field. Nominations and applications are accepted throughout the year and a determination is made by the Scholarship and Awards Committee in April each year. 

To apply for the scholarship please click here.

Deadline for scholarship applications is April 1, 2020.

To nominate someone for one of the awards please click here.

Deadline to nominate someone is April 1, 2020.

Omar L. Miron Award for Excellence in Rehabilitation
The WAER Rehabilitation Award was posthumously renamed the Omar L. Miron Award in 1990 to honor a man who was committed to his profession and to providing quality services to the persons he served. This award is reserved for WAER members who have demonstrated excellence in the field of Vision Rehabilitation.

William H. English Award for Excellence in Education
The WAER Education Award was renamed the William H. English Award in the early 1990s.  William English was a leader in his profession and a life-long educator of children who are blind or visually impaired. This award is reserved for WAER members who have demonstrated excellence in education, natural leadership and outstanding enthusiasm.

WAER Special Award
The WAER Special Award is given to an individual who is not a member of AER but who has made a significant contribution to the field of blindness and visual impairments.

WAER Scholarship
Each year, WAER awards one, $1000.00 scholarship to an individual interested in entering or continuing a vocation in education, rehabilitation teaching, rehabilitation counseling, or orientation and mobility for persons with visual impairments.  WAER awards this scholarship to a student who is a Wisconsin resident or has a verifiable commitment to work in Wisconsin.

See Past Award Recipients

2019 Award and Scholarship Recipients

Special Recognition Award: 
Jim Unger
James Unger is a CVRT, Certified Vision Rehabilitation Therapist, who has served the field since 1988. James has continuously expanded on his knowledge of Vision Rehabilitation and Assistive Technology, and shared his expertise with many individuals and programs across Tennessee, Michigan, and Wisconsin. He began teaching adaptive living and personal management skills in 1989 at the Tennessee Rehabilitation Center’s Visually Impaired Persons program in Murfreesboro Tennessee, before becoming the Assistive Technology Specialist for the state of Tennessee. While at the center, he received the Governor’s Award for providing quality services to individuals with disabilities. In 1994 he moved back to Wisconsin, where he created and taught courses at the Visually Impaired Persons program at Northcentral Technical College in Wausau. In 2009 he moved to Escanaba Michigan to work for the Michigan Commission for the Blind as an itinerant Independent Living Skills instructor. After approximately 2 & ½ years he moved back to Wisconsin to begin a new phase with OBVI, the Office for the Blind and Visually Impaired. During the 30 years that he has been in the profession of teaching blind and visually impaired individuals he has gained many professional and personal friends and has loved every minute of it. As he tells so many individuals, “the job is never boring”. WAER has selected James as the recipient of the 2019 Special Recognition Award for his lifelong contributions to the field. 

William H English Award: 
Micaela Smith
Micaela is a Teacher for Students with Visual Impairments and Certified Orientation & Mobility Specialist currently working is Minnesota, but has a long history of teaching experience in Wisconsin and has served on the WAER board since 2016.  She is willing to go the extra mile to insure her students receive a quality education and are prepared for life’s challenges and successes. Micaela is a champion of student led IEPs, ensuring that her students have an active role in their educational plan. Micaela is enthusiastic about the latest technology in our field and is not afraid to dive right into learning a new device when she deems it to be beneficial to a student or her job. Micaela has demonstrated her leadership in the field by helping to reorganize the WAER annual conference and creating the Collaborative Vision Conference as it is today. Micaela was instrumental in bringing technology into the conference making registration, communication and the conference run more smoothly. Micaela has also presented at numerous CVCs, facilitating “innovation stations” that empowers professionals to problem solve together. She is always happy to share her expertise and experience with professionals from around the state. Micaela created a community disability awareness event that has been ongoing for over 4 years and has had over 350 community wide participants raising a total of $5000 for individuals with disabilities within the community. She had developed a club for students with visual impairments where they had mini bake sales, all ran by the students, and in turn, they used the money raised to participate in O&M trips such as traveling to Chicago for the Amazing Race day, and learning about flying by taking an airplane from Minneapolis to Chicago and back. Micaela is truly dedicated to her students. As a result of her accomplishments, WAER has selected Micaela Smith as the 2019 recipient of the William H English award for excellence in education, natural leadership and outstanding enthusiasm.

Omar L Miron Award: 
Jacci Borchardt
Jacci is the Director of Operations at Vision Forward in Milwaukee, WI. Vision Forward is a powerful resource for adults who are blind or visually impaired to seek rehabilitation. Jacci is incredibly active in the field of blindness and visual impairment. She has been a key member of the Collaborative Vision Conference every year of its existence, ensuring that educational opportunities for both children and  especially adult service providers exist, as well as serving on the NCOMA conference committee this past fall.

Jacci devotes her time and talents unselfishly. She stays current on the trends in the field, she is open to suggestions for improvement to the methods for providing services. She is goal oriented, and gets the job done. Her commitment to individuals living with vision loss is second to none.  Her wealth of knowledge in all areas including program delivery to staff support allows her to continue to provide the highest level of service possible.  Her forward thinking and creativity has led to positive changes in every program she oversees. The support she provides to her staff ensures that each provider feels that they always have someone in their corner. She leads by example and has a spirit that is unwavering. Her passion, energy and dedication to the vision community motivates others to develop to their fullest potential and beyond. 

Jacci is highly respected by her colleagues at Vision Forward and drives her team to continue to serve more people in Wisconsin with vision loss and to better meet their needs.

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