Deaf Mentor Biographies

Deaf Mentor Biographies

DHHS Region Map

Northwest Region

Michele Rolewitz 

Photo of Michele RolewitzMichele was born in Moorhead, Minnesota and raised in Fargo, North Dakota. She graduated from the North Dakota School for the Deaf and attended the National Technical Institute for the Deaf in Rochester, New York. She has worked for North Dakota State University for the past 37 years as a Financial Aid and Scholarship Specialist. Michele was born deaf, weighing 4 pounds 7 ounces, as she was two months premature. Michele was taught ASL from birth, as her grandparents are both Deaf, and their children use ASL. 

Michele has been a Deaf Mentor since November 2013. She became a mentor because she enjoys teaching ASL to families with Deaf children. She has taught ASL at university, secondary and community education levels. Michele feels it is very important for families to have full communication with ASL. It makes her very happy to see Deaf children communicating with their family and friends in ASL. 

Michele has three daughters who have blessed her with eight grandchildren. She also has three cats. She enjoys gardening, canning, traveling, reading and spending time with her family. Michele has a knack for making others smile and bringing positivity to any situation. 


Northeast Region

Mandy Lawyer 

Photo of Mandy MacDonaldMandy was born and raised in Biwabik, Minnesota. She has a Bachelor of Science in Biology from the University of Minnesota – Duluth. Mandy was born deaf, but it went undetected until she was two years old. When she was two and a half, a teacher came to her family’s home and taught them sign language. She uses bi-modal communication by using ASL and spoken English at home. 

Mandy has worked continuously as a Deaf Mentor since 2009. Mandy became a Deaf Mentor because she felt the need to pay-it-forward from her family’s experience in having a teacher come to their home and teach them ASL. When Mandy was growing up, she loved attending large social events set up for Deaf and hard of hearing children. These events gave her a space in which she could belong and use the ASL she was given. Mandy also works for St. Louis County Public Health and Human Services. 

Mandy loves to read and is a huge fan of Dean Koontz and Stephen King. She loves cats and shares her home with three of them! Mandy has one hearing son, who is an ASL user. She is also in the process of becoming a Certified Deaf Interpreter! 


East/West Central Region

Stephanie Nutt 

Photo of Stephanie NuttStephanie is from Brainerd, Minnesota. She attended Gallaudet University majoring in Communication Studies. She works as a Direct Support Staff for a group home with adult foster clients. Stephanie became deaf at the age of two from spinal meningitis. She learned ASL with other Deaf children and interpreters after being enrolled in preschool. Stephanie was mainstreamed growing up, and attending Gallaudet gave her a rich, life-changing experience as well as improved her ASL. She uses bi-modal communication in ASL and spoken English. 

Stephanie became a Deaf Mentor in August of 2018. Having grown up as the only Deaf person in her family, she recognizes the need and impact for ASL and wants to help Deaf children have access to ASL. Stephanie loves to paint and loves dogs tremendously, she hopes to have a dog in the future. In 2017, Stephanie traveled to Costa Rica and rode on one of the top 10 ziplines in the world!


South Region

Amanda Bavlnka 

Photo of Amanda BavlnkaAmanda was born and raised in Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin. She has a Bachelor of Science in Sociology and Psychology from Winona State University. Amanda was born deaf, but her parents did not discover this until she was ten months old. Her parents took sign language classes with her and she uses ASL as her main mode of communication. 

Amanda became a Deaf Mentor in April of 2015. She decided to become one because she wants to help parents communicate with their Deaf children; to help families include their Deaf children in their everyday lives instead of feeling left out. Amanda also works as a Special Education Program Assistant as well as a Deafblind Intervener. Amanda’s favorite hobby is reading. She also loves going camping and spending time with her daughter.


Metro Region

Jackie Correa-Alley 

Photo of Jackie Correa-AlleyJackie was proudly born in Puerto Rico and raised in Massachusetts. She graduated from New York School for the Deaf, known as Fanwood and received a degree in Data Entry and Business Clerk from Saint Paul College. Jackie primarily works as a Deaf Mentor. While Jackie is the only Deaf person in her immediate family, she has an aunt and other cousins who are Deaf. Her aunt gave her access to ASL as a child, which she expanded on in preschool. In addition to knowing ASL and English, Jackie is fluent in Spanish, making her tri-lingual! 

Jackie has been a Deaf Mentor since December 2015. She decided to become a Deaf Mentor because she had the desire to be a Hispanic role model for Hispanic Deaf children. She understands the value of learning the language the culture she was born in, giving her access to other native Spanish speakers. But when adding deafness to the many layers of communication, she also sees the need for parents and their children to have access to ASL. 

Jackie has been and still is, active in the Deaf and Hispanic Deaf community. She currently serves as the Vice President of Minnesota Association of Deaf Citizens, is a board member of Deaf Women of Minnesota, and is a contributor to the New England Latino Deaf Association. In the past Jackie has taught ASL at all education levels from community education and up to college courses. She loves being outdoors, camping, traveling, sewing, and crafting silk flowers. 

Jackie nació con orgullo en Puerto Rico y se crió en Massachusetts. Se graduó de la Escuela para Sordos de Nueva York, conocida como Fanwood y recibió un título en Entrada de Datos y Empleada de Negocios de Saint Paul College. Jackie trabaja principalmente como mentor sordo. Si bien Jackie es la única persona sorda en su familia inmediata, tiene una tía y otros primos que son sordos. Su tía le dio acceso a ASL cuando era niña, que amplió en preescolar. Además de saber inglés y ASL, ¡Jackie habla español con fluidez, haciéndola trilingüe! 

Jackie ha sido Mentor Sordo desde diciembre de 2015. Decidió convertirse en Mentor Sordo porque tenía el deseo de ser un modelo hispano para los niños sordos hispanos. Ella entiende el valor de aprender el idioma en la cultura en la que nació, dándole acceso a otros hablantes nativos de español. Pero cuando agrega sordera a las muchas capas de comunicación, también ve la necesidad de que los padres y sus hijos tengan acceso a ASL. 

Jackie ha estado y sigue siendo activa en la comunidad sorda e hispana sorda. Actualmente se desempeña como Vicepresidenta de la Asociación de Ciudadanos Sordos de Minnesota, es miembro de la junta de Mujeres Sordas de Minnesota, es colaboradora de la Asociación de Sordos Latinos de Nueva Inglaterra. En el pasado, Jackie ha enseñado ASL en todos los niveles educativos, desde educación comunitaria y hasta cursos universitarios. Le encanta estar al aire libre, acampar, viajar, coser y hacer flores de seda. 

Dr. Gloria Nathanson 

Photo of Dr. Gloria NathansonGloria was born and raised in Minnesota, and currently lives in White Bear Lake. She received her Bachelor of Arts in Language Development on Emphasis on those with Hearing Loss, from the University of Minnesota. Gloria also has her Doctor of Audiology degree from Gallaudet University. She is a professor at St. Catherine University. Gloria was born deaf, due to genetics. Because both her parents are Deaf, ASL is her native language. She has a Deaf brother and a hearing sister. Gloria’s partner is also Deaf, they have four children, two of whom are Deaf. 

Gloria has been a Deaf Mentor since 2012. She feels that it is ingrained in her professional and personal beliefs that she should share her knowledge with others. Because knowledge is power, she became a Deaf Mentor to empower families of deaf/hard of hearing children. 

Between teaching, raising her children, speaking at conferences Gloria loves to read, scrapbook and travel. In 1996, she competed for and won the title of Miss Deaf Minnesota!

Melissa Schroeder 

Photo of Melissa SchroederMelissa was born and raised in LaCrosse, Wisconsin. She attended the National Technological Institute for the Deaf and received her Associate of Applied Science (AAS) degree in the Administrative Assistant program. Melissa is a Referral Specialist for ASL Interpreting Services, Minnesota’s largest ASL interpreting referral agency. She was born deaf and mainstreamed until seventh grade and then transferred to Wisconsin School for the Deaf. Melissa’s parents chose to teach her sign language despite their primary doctor discouraging them from doing so. As a special education teacher, Melissa’s mother believe that she should have more access to language. As a result, Melissa’s parents learned sign language alongside her. 

Melissa has been a Deaf Mentor since April 2019. She became a Deaf Mentor because she wanted to help Deaf children connect with their family members. Her experience with her own parents was a blessing, and she wants that for other children. Having communication between a parent and a child will only strengthen their relationship. Being left out is one of the toughest things a Deaf child can experience, and being a Deaf Mentor helps her bring families and children together in their everyday lives. 

Melissa’s family is a blended family. She has raised her partner’s oldest daughter with him, as well as adding two more to the mix. With one Deaf child and two hearing children, ASL is happily used at home. Melissa loves walking, reading, being with her family and dogs. She loves hot weather and summer is her favorite season!