Deaf or Hard of Hearing Professional
Concha Dunwell is a lifelong resident of Las Cruces, New Mexico. She recently retired from Las Cruces Public School District after 20 years working in various positions within their special education department. She has served on the New Mexico Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf Board and Hearing Loss Association of America, Las Cruces Chapter Steering Committee. Mrs. Dunwell teaches American Sign Language at New Mexico State University and after many years of working with the Lions Camp for Deaf and Hard of Hearing children, was named Director in January 2016. Mrs. Dunwell was awarded the Melvin Jones Fellow Award from the Lions Club International Foundation for her humanitarian efforts, and is the first woman to receive the award. Currently, she is working in different capacities all related to deafness. She continues to maintain involvement with the Deaf and Hard of Hearing communities in the southern part of the state and has formed many friendships.
Superintendent of the New Mexico School for the Deaf
Rosemary J. Gallegos was born and raised in Taos, New Mexico. She earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary and Special Education from New Mexico State University and Master’s Degree in Deaf Education from the University of Arizona. In May 2016, she received her Doctorate of Education in Educational Leadership from the University of New Mexico. Dr. Gallegos has served in many capacities at the New Mexico School for the Deaf. She was an early interventionist, teacher, instructional supervisor and administrator. During her 30 year tenure at NMSD, she cultivated the state wide early intervention and outreach programs of NMSD ensuring that all deaf and hard of hearing children in our state have access to specialized information, resources, and opportunity to engage in their community of deaf and hard of hearing peers and adults. Dr. Gallegos also served as co-chair of the NM Task Force for Education for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Children and Youth. Dr. Gallegos is the 9th Superintendent of the New Mexico School for the Deaf.
Deaf or Hard of Hearing Representative of Northern New Mexico
John Hooper is a native New Mexican, born in Lovington. He attended and graduated from the New Mexico School for the Deaf. He received his Associates Degree from the New Mexico Junior College in Hobbs and Bachelor’s degree from the University of New Mexico. Mr. Hooper retired from the State of New Mexico in 2014 after working 25 years and 7 of those years he was employed with the NM Commission for Deaf and Hard of Hearing. Mr. Hooper is active in the community; he officiates middle and high school basketball and is the current President of the Hearing Loss Association of America Santa Fe Chapter. In the past, Mr. Hooper has been active on the New Mexico Relay Board and Junior Chamber of Commerce (Jaycees).
New Mexico Division of Vocational Rehabilitation Representative
Michael O’Brien is the newly appointed Administrator of the Rehabilitation Services Unit for the New Mexico Division of Vocational Rehabilitation. He comes to New Mexico with more than 40 years’ experience in rehabilitation. He has served as an administrator, practitioner, and professor in the field. He has a B.A. from the University of Missouri-Kansas City, M.A.Ed. from Chadron State College, and an Ed.D. from Oklahoma State University. He is a certified rehabilitation counselor and a certified vocational evaluation specialist. His work includes previous experience as associate professor of rehabilitation counseling at New Mexico Highlands University. As the director of the Oklahoma Department of Rehabilitation he was responsible for the supervision of the Oklahoma School for the Deaf. He is a four-time National Institute on Rehabilitation Issues national scholar. He has been married to his bride, Jan Marie, for 43 years. They have four grown children and 13 grandchildren.
Ronald J. Stern
New Mexico Association of the Deaf President
Dr. Ronald J. Stern is now retired after several stops in California, New Mexico, New York and Washington, D.C. with over 40+ years in the field of education of the deaf.
Concerning New Mexico, he served as the Superintendent of the New Mexico School for the Deaf for 15 years (2000-2015). Over the duration of his professional career and to this day, he continues to be actively engaged in advocating for the deaf community which has included a range of roles in various local, state, and national professional and community organizations.
Dr. Stern holds a bachelor of arts degree in sociology from Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C., a master of arts degree in special education with an emphasis on education of the deaf and hard of hearing from California State University, Northridge, and a doctorate on educational leadership from the University of New Mexico.
He and his wife, Hedy, reside in Santa Fe as proud parents of 3 deaf children who in turn have blessed them with 4 grandchildren.
Parent of a Deaf or Hard of Hearing Child
Francis Vigil was not born in New Mexico, but has been raised in New Mexico nearly his entire life. He is from the Pueblo of Zia and is also Jemez Pueblo and Jicarilla Apache. Mr. Vigil has served as an educator in New Mexico his entire educational career. Mr. Vigil started his educational career as a high school science teacher, and has served as a school, district, state, and federal level administrator throughout New Mexico. Mr. Vigil is currently the Education Specialist for Native Language, History, and Culture for the Bureau of Indian Education (BIE). In his current work, he works to implement culturally and linguistically responsive methods across the BIE’s twenty-three Bureau Operated Schools, in 8 states. In addition, Mr. Vigil has done consulting work with several schools, school districts, and community-based education entities within New Mexico in the areas of culturally and linguistically responsive education. He also serves as a board member for Parents as Teachers, which is an international and national early childhood education and home visiting provider.
Mr. Vigil holds a Bachelor of Science in Microbiology from New Mexico State University (Go Aggies!), a Master of Arts in Secondary Education from the University of New Mexico and is currently pursuing a PhD in Social Justice at Arizona State University.
Mr. Vigil and his wife Stella, have a blended family, and they are parents to a total of seven children. Of the seven children, two are deaf, Bria and Soniya Vigil. It is through them that Mr. Vigil has had the honor of becoming an advocate and community member for and with the deaf and hard of hearing community in New Mexico. Mr. Vigil has been engaged with New Mexico School for the Deaf (NMSD) Albuquerque Pre-school and Santa Fe campuses as a parent since 2006. Mr. Vigil has been involved in NMSD school and community advocacy and events. He has worked with NMSD on creating understanding for culturally responsive education. He has provided training and support to sign language interpreters in the area of cultural competency. He, and his daughter Bria, had the honor of presenting at the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf (RID) Conference about the need for cultural understanding for sign language interpreters. Now that his daughters are in middle and high school, he can be seen cheering on the NMSD Roadrunners wherever they are playing!