In this video there’s one image of a woman who was a lawyer walking off of a city bus, and she had a cane in one hand and a briefcase in the other hand. And in that one moment, I knew that I could be someone who’s blind as well as someone who is a poised, confident person.~Sheila Koenig
I’m so excited to introduce you to my friend Sheila Koenig. Sheila and I met in Salt Lake City, Utah in 2019 at the Daring to Own Your StoryTM retreats. During the retreat I really enjoyed getting to know Sheila because she’s such a fascinating person. One thing she said that stuck with me is “working to live, not living to work.” When she said these words, I felt like an electric shock went through me because up until that point my worth was fully tied to my work.
After the retreat Sheila and I continued to cultivate our friendship and each time I talk with her I always feel like I come away with more wisdom than I had before. Sheila has remarkable insight, compassion, and kindness and she’s one of the most authentic people I know. So I’m very happy for you to meet her today. Enjoy! ~Steph
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Beyond Sight Magazine Cover
Hi, I’m Sheila Koenig from Minneapolis, Minnesota and I am honored to be featured in this month’s Bold Blind Beauty. And to be here to share a little bit of my story with you.
I’m coming to you from Minneapolis of Minnehaha Falls, where hopefully winter is on its way out and spring is on its way here. We’ve got the falls flowing while the icicles are here at the same time. So hopefully soon all of it will just be glorious spring. But it’s one of the things I love about Minneapolis.
Little bit about myself. I manage Youth Services at State Services for the Blind, and before that, taught ninth grade English for 15 years.
Outside of work, I enjoy things like running a 5K and enjoying art, cooking and just hanging out with friends. I think one of the things that I’ve really come to realize about myself is that I have grown into someone who’s really comfortable within her own skin. I don’t know that I always was, but I’ve definitely settled in now in a way in which feeling myself as a blind person is just part of who I am and not all of who I am.
I grew up in Sheboygan, Wisconsin with parents who really encouraged me and challenged me knowing that I could have a life that is just as full and just as vital as as anyone else’s. It wasn’t really until after graduating from high school that I met other blind people.
The Significance Of Role Models
And I actually remember there was one video in particular that really stood out as a way of showcasing role models. At that time, I was struggling with how can I be someone who is blind as well as someone who is poised and professional. And in this video there’s one image of a woman who was a lawyer walking off of a city bus, and she had a cane in one hand and a briefcase in the other hand. And in that one moment, I knew that I could be someone who’s blind as well as someone who is a poised, confident person.
So the importance of role models is just a belief of mine to the core. And as I’m creating programs at State Services for the Blind, I’m always looking for opportunities to bring in those role models because they open up possibilities for our students.
Before I did my student teaching, I knew I needed to get a little bit more training. So I went to a training center here in Minneapolis called Blind Incorporated, where I learned skills like using a cane, learning braille, assistive technology to just really give me that added boost of skills before I did my student teaching.
That was so helpful in being launched into this wild ride of teaching in a 10th grade English classroom and a seventh grade English classroom. To just absolutely help me know that I could do those, those really important skills like accessing print and traveling around.
Valuing Personal Growth
So one of my values is personal growth and I think that can be seen throughout my career. I, as I mentioned, taught ninth grade English for 15 years at Southview Middle School (go Hornets) and really loved that. Loved seeing students find new things in themselves and take on challenges. And after 15 years, I knew that I needed to take on a different challenge of my own just in order to keep learning and growing.
So I applied for the transition coordinator position where I was able to shape a lot of programs for our youth with a vision loss in Minnesota. Last year the position of Youth Services Manager opened up. I applied for that and got that position. And it’s in that position where I can really support other staff in growing into the best people that they can become.
Related to personal growth I’m not a person who does New Year’s resolutions, but every year I do choose an intention. Last year my word was brave. This year, my word is joy, and I think those two words really capture who I want to be as a person. Brave means showing up when things are uncertain or unknown, like submitting photographs to an art exhibit or making a video for Bold Blind Beauty, or helping to lead a Daring Sister’s retreat.
On Being Brave
It’s just saying yes, even when things are uncertain. Joy is all about embracing the beauty in the present moment around us, like flowing waterfall or sunshine.
So my hope for all of you is that you can find your brave and your joy from within and that you can celebrate with a community of people. I think as people who are blind or visually impaired, one of the best things we can do is uplift and celebrate each other and help everyone to become the very best that they can be.
Thank you so much it’s been amazing to share this with you, and I look forward to talking with you in the future.
Connecting With Sheila
- LinkedIn: @SheilaKoenig
Connecting With Bold Blind Beauty
Like what you’ve read and want to chat about it? Join us in the Bold Blind Beauty Facebook group.
- The header photo is identical to the image used on the Beyond Sight Magazine cover and YouTube Thumbnail. A headshot of Sheila on the back of a tandem bicycle wearing a blue sleeveless top with sunglasses and a pink helmet. Text on the cover reads “Beyond Sight April 2023 | Women On The Move | Sheila Koenig.”
- YouTube video description: In the video, Sheila is standing with her white cane in front of the scenic Minnehaha Falls in Minnesota. She’s wearing a blue long-sleeve top with black joggers and sneakers.
- A professional headshot of Sheila, her light brown hair is a stylish bob that perfectly frames her pretty face. She is smiling directly at the camera and has on oval framed eyeglasses and a colorful scarf around her neck.
- Looking perfectly poised and confident, Sheila is walking on a crowded New York City street in the eveing with her white cane. She is wearing a black scoop neck dress and is walking with purpose while smiling at the camera.
- Sheila is snowshoeing among snowcovered trees.
- Sheila is standing with her white cane in front of the scenic Minnehaha Falls in Minnesota.