Explore, Dream, Discover!
If you asked Michelle McManus which of the above adjectives best describes her, she is hard-pressed to narrow it down.
“To explore means being able to have independence and being able to go anywhere or do anything we would like. To dream means having or finding opportunities. To discover is learning new topics, getting new ideas and using it to the best of my ability.”
Born with retinopathy of prematurity, Michelle was fortunate to have supportive parents who literally moved across state lines to ensure she got the best education possible. The family started out in Oklahoma but then moved to Montana when her father retired from the air force. But when funding there for special instruction dwindled her parents became increasingly unhappy with the support she was receiving. This deciding factor led Michelle’s father to take another position and relocate the family to Memphis in hopes of better opportunities for her and the rest of the family.
Although mainstreamed for much of her education, it was in Memphis that Michelle met her first totally blind instructor. “It was refreshing to have a blind instructor and one who knew what she was talking about.”
Michelle had heard of the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) several years ago but it wasn’t until she graduated high school and received a scholarship from the Tennessee NFB affiliate that the organization became more personal to her.
After completing both her undergraduate and graduate education in Tennessee, Michelle relocated again, this time to Pennsylvania. It was in PA that she started her teaching career at a local day care and continued teaching for the next few years.
While in State College, PA. Michelle kept getting invitations to various NFB events. Finally around 2011 she decided to test the waters.
“Initially it was just for the social engagement, but I learned a lot of the NFB philosophy. Things like Washington Seminar and other important issues they were fighting for.”
Michelle learned something else about the NFB. “They weren’t what they were rumored to be. There was a time where they seemed to be doing a lot of protesting and people thought of them as radical. But I realized the issues affected me personally, so it was important to get involved.”
Elected to the affiliate board in 2011, Michelle initially served as director but was later elected Second Vice President for two years before resuming her current position as director. In 2012 Michelle became Vice President of the Happy Valley Chapter and was then voted chapter president the following year – a position she still holds today.
When the Pennsylvania Braille Enrichment through Literacy and Learning (BELL) Academy was launched in 2013, Michelle was its first coordinator.
“BELL gives me an opportunity to teach again and be a role model for younger kids. Besides, it was fun!”
For her day job, since 2011, Michelle has worked as an information technology consultant on the accessibility team at Pennsylvania State University. Perhaps not so ironically, Michelle began working at Penn State not long after the NFB filed a lawsuit against the university for its lack of accessible website and course materials. Michelle looks at her position as more than just a job.
“It can be stressful but it’s very fulfilling because I’m helping people with disabilities get access to a better education.”
Outside of her chapter and affiliate duties, Michelle loves reading, travelling, and is a self-described “huge” baseball fan especially all things the Atlanta Braves (no Pennsylvania that is not a typo but it is another story.).
Michelle earned her Bachelor’s of Science in Early Childhood Special Education from the University of Tennessee at Martin. She also holds a Master’s in Teaching for Visually Impaired from Middle Tennessee State University.
Anyone who really knows Michelle also knows of her love for her two cats Cassie and Katie and Cinnamon her lab mix. She lives in Happy Valley with her fiance.
Written by Lisa Bryant
Contact Michelle at: