Our Staff

Statewide Director of Early Learning

Kendra Benedict, PhD

Dr. Benedict holds principal and teacher certification from the State of Arizona, a Ph.D. and an M.A. in Special Education from the University of Arizona, and a B.S. in Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology from Northern Arizona University. In pursuit of her doctoral degree, she designed and conducted intervention studies to inform her practice. Her scholarly activities have resulted in numerous peer-reviewed publications and national and international conference presentations. Dr. Benedict continues to enjoy her work in higher education, teaching classes for the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College at Arizona State University.

Southern Arizona Staff

Debbie Oberin

Debbie Oberin is a native Tucsonan and has worked on and off as an Administrative Assistant at ASDB for the past 25+ years.  She began in 1987 for the Regional Services Program, the original statewide Outreach Program, now ECFE, and worked with Barbara Schrag, Susan Greer, Catherine Creamer, Susan Price and many others over the years.  She returned to ASDB in 2010 working for the Finance Department and was hired back for ECFE in 2014 when Barbara became Director.  She enjoys her job immensely and is very happy to be working with the ECFE staff.

Melissa Hoel

Melissa graduated from the University of Tulsa with a dual BS in Deaf Education and Elementary Education.  She earned her Masters Degree in Early Childhood Special Education from California State University Los Angeles. Her current certifications include Standard Hearing Impaired, K-12, Elementary Education K-8 and Early Childhood Special Education 0-5.  Melissa has been a teacher of the Deaf/Hard of Hearing for over 28 years. Her experience includes years in the public school classrooms and itinerant teaching, but her passion for working with toddlers and babies brought her to this position as Early Childhood Teacher in the Tucson area.  She loves working with families and feels honored to be received into their homes to help with this journey.

Susan Price

Susan’s bachelor’s degree is in Special Education from University of Delaware. She has an Early Childhood Certification and a Master’s in Deaf Education from Gallaudet. Susan has a special interest in Cued Speech and serves as our resource for Cueing in ECFE. Susan has worked in Deaf Education for 34 years total, 19 at ASDB. She has worked in ECFE for 18 years. Susan serves families in Pinal, Gila, Graham, Greenlee, Cochise and rural Pima counties.

Susan Greer

Susan Greer is an educator, trainer, supporter of children and their families. Susan Greer is a Certified Teacher of the Visually Impaired and Supervisor with the Arizona State Schools for the Deaf and the Blind (ASDB) who provides services and consultation to children, families, agencies and school districts who have questions about young children with vision concerns. She also is an Elementary Teacher and has her Principal and Early Childhood Certifications. Since 1973, Susan Greer has provided support, services and expertise to young children, families and agencies throughout

the state of Arizona. She was one of the first early childhood service providers – traveling throughout the state of Arizona and visiting families in their home before Part C services were established. She also started the Visually Impaired Preschoolers Center on the ASDB campus in 1975. Susan provides a wide range of services – from assessments, developmental activities, family support and training, agency in-service and professional development in the area of sensory impairments.

Catherine Stephens Creamer

Catherine Stephens Creamer, M.Ed., LSLS Cert. AVEd. has worked in the field of Education for the Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing for over 35 years.  For most of her career, she worked at the Arizona State Schools for the Deaf and the Blind (ASDB) with deaf and hard of hearing children in their early intervention and preschool programs. After retiring from ASDB, she has had a variety of experiences, including working for two and a half years as principal for the Presbyterian Ear Institute Oral School (PEIOS), a Moog Certified Program and OPTION school in Albuquerque, New Mexico. At PEIOS, she supervised a Listening and Spoken Language program for deaf and hard of hearing children birth to eight years old. During that time, she received her certification as a Listening and Spoken Language Specialist: Auditory Verbal Educator. After leaving PEIOS, and returning to Tucson, Catherine worked for three years as a Research Coordinator for the Center on Literacy and Deafness at the University of Arizona and also provided Tele-Intervention services to families through a grant administered by the Moog Center for Deaf Education. In the fall of 2015, she returned to ASDB and is working with their programs across the state to support listening and spoken language programming.

Cecilia Onaiyekan

Cecilia has certifications as an educational specialist (Ed.S.), Teacher of the Visually Impaired (TVI), and Cert. Orientation & Mobility Specialist (COMS). She has been working in the field for 30 years. Cecilia has been with ASDB for 21 years, 11 of those years have been with the birth to 3 populations.

Marybeth Fowler, M.Ed.

Marybeth Fowler is a Hearing Specialist in the Early Childhood and Family Education Program at ASDB in Tucson. Continually, she pursues education in Listening and Spoken Language strategies and is a fluent signer. She is passionate about her work. Marybeth has been working with deaf and hard of hearing children for over 30 years. After growing up in the Eastern United States, she loves living in the Western part of our country. Of her four children, two are deaf. Her oldest uses sign as her primary mode of communication; her youngest is a bilateral cochlear implant recipient who uses listening and spoken language. Through her personal and profession experience, Marybeth has developed a sense of urgency that she strives to impart to the families with whom she works.

Northern Arizona Staff

Kristi Lawrence

Kristi Lawrence lives in Flagstaff. She is a teacher of the visually impaired and has worked birth to three with ASDB for 25 years. She cover a very large area of Northern Arizona including Coconino, Navajo and Apache County’s. When she’s not working, Kristi loves to travel and spend time outdoors.

Lisa Ring

Lisa received her bachelor’s degree from Lenior Rhyne College in Elementary Education and Deaf Education and her master’s degree in Deaf Education from the University of Arizona.  She also completed a certificate program from Gallaudet University in Deaf and Hard of Hearing Infants, Toddlers, and Families: Collaboration and Leadership Program. Lisa has been a teacher of the deaf and hard of hearing for Early Childhood and Family Education for 3 years in the Flagstaff and northern Arizona area.  She has the honor of working with families in Coconino, Yavapai, and Mohave counties of northern Arizona.  Her teaching experiences have included being the first teacher to start services with our school age program, North Central Regional Program, and she initiated services in several school districts in northern Arizona. Lisa also had the opportunity to teach in the elementary department at the Phoenix Day School for the Deaf as well as the elementary department at the Arizona State School for the Deaf in Tucson.  In her free time, Lisa enjoys running and hiking the trails in the beautiful mountains of  Flagstaff  as well as the Grand Canyon.

Alli Scott

Alli is an Arizona native and grew up in Pine, a rural community in the middle of the state. She has been working in the education field for about 20 years. Alli was a preschool teacher, Kindergarten teacher, K-6 Reading Specialist, and Site Director for a Montessori Preschool. She has a Masters in Early Childhood and is working on getting her Teacher for the Visually Impaired (TVI) certification.  Alli has been with Arizona State Schools for the Deaf and Blind (ASDB) for just over a year.  Alli lives in Flagstaff and serves the surrounding counties including Navajo, Coconino, Mohave, Yavapai and Northern Gila. When not serving families, she enjoys spending time with family and friends. Alli’s hobbies include camping, skiing, white water rafting, hiking, backpacking, fishing, hunting and just about anything else that involves being outdoors.

Phoenix area Staff

Laura Hocknull

Laura Hocknull grew up in a university town in southeast Kansas and has a family full of educators. Laura received her Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education, and a Master of Science in Deaf Education. She holds Arizona State Teacher Certification for grades K-8 regular education, Grades K-12 Deaf Education, and has Early Childhood endorsement. Laura has worked in the field of Deaf Education for 20 years, and early intervention for 17 years. In addition to being passionate about providing early intervention supports to families and children, Laura has 3 wonderful boys, loves to sing, and has a professional golfer for a husband. Life is exciting.

Natalie Vitez

Natalie attended Northern Arizona University and achieved a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology with minors in Spanish and Sociology. During her senior year, she completed an internship with the Northland Family Help Center HALO House youth shelter. She quickly developed a passion for helping children and teenagers and became a youth care worker at the Youth Development Institute after graduating. Natalie’s love for laminators and label makers, as well as growing up with deaf family members mad her excited to join the ASDB Early Childhood and Family Education team in August of 2016 as an Administrative Secretary. In her spare time she loves to read, write, and take pictures of her cats and dog.

Sandra O’Connor

Sandra graduated from the State University College of New York at Buffalo in Elementary Education with an emphasis on Early Childhood Education. She taught for several years before having her son who was born profoundly deaf. Sandra jumped into her career in Ohio teaching deaf/hard of hearing in 1997. She worked as a Parent Advisor/Hearing Specialist with a number of families before being promoted to Coordinator/Supervisor of the Regional Infant Hearing Program in Cincinnati, Ohio in 1998. Sandra was assigned to the Advisory Committee on Universal Newborn Hearing Screening by Ohio Governor, Bob Taft in 2001. She was an Early Intervention Deaf/Hard of Hearing state trainer for the Ohio Department of Health from 2001-2004 before moving to Arizona.   Sandra has enjoyed working in Arizona for the past 10 years as a Service Coordinator/Hearing Specialist. Sandra is passionate about providing support to the families she serves.

Linda Kennedy

Linda Kennedy is originally from southern California.   She moved to Arizona for school & has been here ever since.  She has a BA from U of A in Special Ed/Elementary Ed.  Linda started working for Arizona School for the Deaf & Blind while still in college in 1974.  Since that time she has worked in many different capacities for ASDB including teaching multiplied handicapped young children & teaching in the preschool at PDSD, originally CHIC.  She also has her Deaf Education Certification.  Linda received a MA in Early Childhood from NAU.  She was a part time home visitor for 13 years & is now in her 17 year as a Service Coordinator/Hearing Specialist.

Lauren Smith

Lauren attended Utah State University where she received a Bachelor’s in Communicative Disorders. As an undergraduate student, Lauren worked as a research assistant for Dr. Lauri Nelson in the Sound Beginnings Preschool. Lauren returned to Utah State for her Master’s in Deaf Education with an emphasis in Listening and Spoken Language and Early Childhood Special Education, birth to five. As part of her Master’s, Lauren developed a study to measure the affect of using music intentionally as a tool for vocabulary development. She presented her thesis research, Music: A tool for Expressive and Receptive Vocabulary at the National Early Hearing Detection and Intervention conference (EHDI) and the International Council for Exceptional Children conference in 2015. Lauren joined the team at ASDB in August of 2015.

MaryAnn Lester

MaryAnn has been a teacher of the Deaf for 35 years. She speaks fluent Spanish and is fluent in ASL. She is also an Intervener Trainer for the Deaf/Blind. MaryAnn’s undergrad majors include Communication Disorders and Elementary Education, and she has her Med in Education of the Deaf. Her certifications include Standard Hearing Impaired, K-12, Elementary Education K-8, Early Childhood Special Ed 0-5.

Cheryl Gilroy Parent/Toddler Teacher

Cheryl has a Masters in Arts in Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing Education from the University of Arizona with an emphasis in Deaf Studies. Her Bachelor’s of Science was in Special Education and Rehabilitation from the University of Arizona with an emphasis in Speech & Hearing. Cheryl is an Arizona State Certified Teacher of the Hearing Impaired (birth-12th). She has 17 years experience working with Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing children and their families. Cheryl has taught preschool for the Deaf (formerly Center for Hearing Impaired Children). She also worked 15 years as a Hearing Specialist; working with D/HH children and their families in their homes. This is her 4th year teaching parent toddler class at Phoenix Day School for the Deaf. She and her husband have 4 beautiful children, and they are in the process of adopting a child with a profound hearing loss. Her passion is working with globally delayed children and their families. She also enjoys gardening, swimming, and hiking.

Deaf Mentor Program