Sheila Koenig2017 Rising Alumni

Sheila Koenig

Sheila Koenig has a master’s in curriculum and instruction, and began her professional career as a teacher. While at South View Middle School in Edina, Shelia designed and implemented a district-wide 9th grade Pre-AP Language Arts course. In 2015, she changed careers and now works as a transition coordinator at Minnesota’s State Services for the Blind. In just a short time in her role, she has implemented a new statewide program for high school students who are blind, low vision or deaf/blind; and put on a career expo to connect students with employed adults for networking and mentorship.


Transition Coordinator, Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development State Services for the Blind

CEHD Degree

M.Ed., Curriculum and Instruction, 2005

Please list any professional accomplishments you wish to mention.

In my current job, which I've held since 2015, I am most proud of:

  • Designing and implementing a state-wide program for high school students who are blind, low vision, or DeafBlind.
  • Planning and executing a Career Expo in April 2016: bringing together students and employed adults with a vision loss to discuss strategies that helped them become successfully employed. It also showcased the importance of having high expectations for our students.
  • Being asked by students to be the commencement speaker at Minnesota State Academy for the Blind (June 2017)

In my 15 years of teaching English in Edina, I am most proud of having designed a district-wide 9th grade Pre-AP class open to all students.

Please list any past or current volunteer activities.

National Federation of the Blind of Minnesota, Board member (2013-present)

National Organization of Blind Educators, President (2001-2013)

Please list any awards or honors from your collegiate, professional, or volunteer experiences.

Keynote speaker, Missouri Children’s Vision Summit April, 2005

“Engaging Students in Active Viewing and Thinking” in, A Web-Linked Guide to Resources and Activities by Richard Beach, 2006

"Blind Educator of the Year" award, National Federation of the Blind, 2007

"Rehabilitation + Education = Success after High School", Presentation at both Minnesota Education Association and Charting the C's conferences

What is your favorite memory from the University of Minnesota?

I remember the sense of community created in Tim Lensmire's writing class. The class was about writing, but it was also about identity, race, and voice. We explored ways to help our students develop as writers and embrace their identities, and in that process we experienced the beauty of deepening community.

What was the impact and benefit of your educational experience in CEHD?

As I moved from my job at South View Middle School to a job at State Services for Blind in July 2015, I realized that many of the values most important to me in teaching were also vital in my new role as transition coordinator for blind, visually impaired, and DeafBlind students. The goal of each job is the same: to empower students to embrace their own personal authority with a sense of confidence and pride. I believe this shines through the curriculum at the U of M.

What professor(s) or course(s) were most influential during your time in CEHD?

Tim Lensmire and Richard Beach were most influential for me. Both allowed us to explore how we could teach students to think critically and live authentically.

Who has inspired you the most during your career?

Dave Peterson was the principal who hired me in Edina. He was really a gifted leader and still is. He is the kind of person that listens whole-heartedly, takes risks deliberately, and embraces change steadily. This model of leadership is something I try to emulate as I work to create opportunities for students and young leaders in our state.

What skills are important to succeed as an emerging professional today?

One of the most essential skills is to embrace your own authenticity. As a teacher, literature was a means of not only discovering other lives and other worlds, but also developing the power of reflection. Literature and language can both reveal another perspective, and simultaneously illuminate the self. This self-discovery helps students to live authentically. The capacity to live authentically is what enables us to create positive change and shape the world in which we want to live.

When you have 30 minutes of free time, what do you do?

I enjoy running, cooking, watching movies, biking, and new adventures.

How do others describe you?

Optimistic, positive, energetic, and fun

How do you describe yourself?

Reflective, insightful, motivated

What's a good book you'd recommend to others?

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, 11-22-63 by Stephen King, The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman

What gets you excited about work?

Each day I think about what new opportunities I can create for students. I love seeing them learn a new skill, make a new connection, or dream a new possibility.

What is a "fun fact" about you?

I have a secret desire to write a screenplay and direct the film it inspires!