Alaska Speech Language Hearing Association
2023 AKSHA Award Winners!
Thank you everyone for your nominations for AKSHA Awards! We are thrilled to recognize our amazing SLPs and Audiologists in Alaska!
FRIEND OF THE ASSOCIATION
Kelli runs the KPBSD Child Find Program, and in her position consistently refers and organizes the team to facilitate finding preschoolers on the Kenai Peninsula who may benefit from speech therapy or special education services. She works closely with speech pathologists throughout the large district area, and is a master at being culturally and family sensitive, organizing teams, and walking families through the IEP process so that their 3 to 5-year-olds can access speech services in the school system. She has crafted great working relationships with ILP, the Kenaitze tribe, and other local stakeholders to help families in the area navigate a course to diagnosis and treatment in the school system. Kelli always puts the needs of the child first and manages to juggle cases from the Old Believer villages in the South Peninsula to the Alaska Native Villages across Kachemak Bay and everywhere else KPBSD stretches. In addition to this, for many years Kelli worked as an intensive needs preschool teacher and ran a classroom that integrated speech and language deeply into its curriculum, with many successful outcomes for her students. Her impact on the young children of the Kenai Peninsula broadens in scope every year, and she has helped so many children and families gain skills and get the help they need before their children are school aged. Kudos to you Kelli!
Nomination by Noelle Miller, Katy Rice, and many other KPBSD SLPs
FRIEND OF THE ASSOCIATION
Kirsten Kempf completed her SLPA degree at the University of Alaska Prince William Sound campus in 2001, the first year the program was offered in Alaska. She has been on her journey with the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District as a valued member of the speech department for over 20 years. Since that time, she has been meeting students’ communication needs across the entire central Kenai Peninsula, from Soldotna area schools all the way to Nikiski and everywhere in between.
Kirsten has vast experience serving students of all grades and ages. Over the years she developed a passion, and a diverse and extensive skill set, for creating visual supports for students and special education classrooms districtwide. Some of the larger districtwide visual support projects Kirsten has spearheaded include visual directions for the adaptive physical education program; picture exchange communication visuals and core boards for nonverbal students; and interactive books, visual directions, and file folder activities for preschool, structured primary, and intensive needs programs. When a nonverbal student enrolled in kindergarten in one of the Russian speaking Old Believer communities near Kachemak Bay, Kirsten trained special education staff at the school to create communication cards that could be used by both English and Russian speaking staff.
Kirsten is a tech wizard with more than just Boardmaker. When faced with the challenges of distance delivered services during the COVID pandemic, Kirsten brought her green screen to life – maintaining continuity of student services while bringing rich language learning experiences and fun to many students and families. She is also a fierce advocate for nonverbal students to have a voice, and she helps to program voice output devices and encourage their use across school settings.
When Kirsten started working in one of the KPBSD’s elementary schools, we noticed amazing improvement in all the speech students' progress on their IEP goals. What we didn’t anticipate were some of the collateral effects. One of these was that the students with speech services began to totally dominate in the annual school forensic competitions. Across the 10 categories of competition, students with speech services took many of the first places and went on to place in borough competitions (with some taking first place at boroughs as well). This demonstrates that Kirsten not only worked with children on the mechanics of articulation (and language), but also inspired them to pursue their dreams for the future.
Kirsten continually strives to learn and excel in her field, attending many trainings locally, across the state, as well as the ASHA National Convention, as she says and truly believes that “knowledge is power.”
It is our honor and privilege as SLPs in the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District to have worked closely with Kirsten for 20+ years, and we are thrilled to share in nominating her for the AKSHA Friends of the Association award for 2023.
Nomination by Cynthia Atcheson, Jackie Kempf, and Jason Steadman
Currently, Monica is the acting State Education Advocacy Leader (SEAL) for Alaska. In itself, being the SEAL is above and beyond typical volunteering and is a very big deal to help keep Alaskan SLPs appraised of what’s going on in the larger nation, and to forward advocacy for our profession and our students and clients. However, she is also the Western State SEAL and our AKSHA CEU Administrator. She is also a practicing SLP and a member of KPBSD ATT team, which has done wonderful work making accessible devices and language more available for our KPBSD students. Monica has shown a support of AKSHA for many years, being a past president in addition to several other positions, including AKSHA Nominations/Awards/Scholarships Chair and AKSHA Secretary. She has made a very positive impact for speech-language pathology for us on the Kenai Peninsula, as well as in the state of Alaska.
Nominated by Noelle Miller and Amy Hogue
Winner of the Helen Beirne Scholarship is:
Linda Green is working on her speech-language pathology degree and plans to graduate in December 2025. She is part of the University of Alaska’s first cohort in connection with Eastern New Mexico University. She is Currently open to working with any age group or environment, with her main goal to leave graduate school feeling prepared for any environment in order to contribute to her community with her education and experience. She is working as an SLPA at a music-based speech therapy private practice clinic in Fairbanks. In her undergraduate studies, Linda was the president of UAA’s NSLHA chapter. She has worked with native populations in Nome, where she worked at a local radio station as the Education Director. Through this position, she was able to travel to villages in the area, such as Teller, Unalakleet, and Savoonga, and she participated in community events, including whale harvesting in Savoonga and the Iditarod in Nome. Linda comes with high recommendations from her references.
AKSHA is proud to present this year’s Helen Dittman Beirne Scholarship to Linda Green. Congratulations, Linda!
Please consider nominating someone today for our upcoming 2024 AKSHA Convention!