The orientation and mobility team stands outdoors in front of a brick wall. From left to right: Elizabeth, Rod, Kristy, Leslie, Tommy, Erica. All are looking at the camera and smiling.

Meet the O&M Team

The O&M team at Leader Dog comes with a wealth of knowledge and experience. Our team prides itself on helping clients learn to navigate with confidence in our Orientation & Mobility Training, supporting GPS training, and dedicating themselves to building unforgettable experiences for teenagers who are blind at Summer Experience Camp.

Erica Ihrke, Extended Services Manager, Certified Orientation & Mobility Specialist

A woman with short auburn hair smiles at the camera. She is wearing a red shirt and a black cardigan.

Erica started working for Leader Dog as a part-time resident assistant while attending Central Michigan University studying education. After graduation, she began working full time, eventually becoming interested in formally learning about orientation and mobility. This led her to Western Michigan University, where she earned her master’s degree in orientation and mobility. Erica enjoys working at Leader Dog because the organization is progressive and always growing. She has been the manager of extended services since 2008, but she still enjoys working with clients. Her favorite part of working with clients is their “Ah-ha” moment that leads to them feeling empowered to travel independently.

Erica is married to Kevin, a guide dog mobility instructor at Leader Dog. They have two daughters, who keep them busy with school and competitive sports. They also have two career changed dogs, Tenor and Barley.

Rod Haneline, Certified Orientation & Mobility Specialist

Rod sits in front of a blue-gray photo backdrop. He is smiling at the camera and wearing a medium blue collared shirt with a vintage Leader Dog logo in white.A member of the Leader Dog team since 1979, Rod is internationally recognized for his extensive knowledge in developing advanced O&M instructional programs. He has developed integrated methods for use of canes and dogs as well as GPS in both O&M and guide dog programs. His expertise in guide dog utilization, O&M and GPS has given him an innovative perspective for enhancing mobility and independence for people who are blind and visually impaired.

Rod implemented Leader Dog's O&M Training program and was instrumental in developing Leader Dog's location technology classes (centering on the use of a talking navigational tool using GPS). Leader Dog has become the world leader in the application of this technology.

Rod developed and implemented an ongoing series of seminars designed for both practicing professionals and university students in the field of orientation and mobility. He also started an intern program for graduate students in blind rehabilitation/orientation and mobility. He was inducted into the Outstanding Alumni Academy at Western Michigan University for his work in the blind rehabilitation field. Rod is currently a board member of Assistance Dog International North America (ADINA).

Rod is a graduate of Oakland University with a bachelor's degree in human resource development, majoring in training and development. Rod also has a master's degree from Western Michigan University in blind rehabilitation, majoring in orientation and mobility. He has spoken all over the world on O&M and guide dogs. He has also authored, published and presented numerous articles and informative literature on the subjects of guide dog utilization, preparation of clients for guide dog use and training techniques and blindness.

Kristy Plesscher, Certified Orientation & Mobility Specialist

Kristy smiles at the camera. She has long, brown hair. She is wearing a bright blue polo with the Leader Dog logo in yellow.Kristy has her master’s degree in orientation and mobility from Western Michigan University. She completed her practicum at Leader Dog and her internship at Southeastern Blind Rehabilitation Center in Birmingham, AL. After spending several years working as an O&M specialist in Alabama and Ohio, she returned to Michigan in 2017 to join our extended services department. Kristy loves the spirit of teamwork and collaboration at Leader Dog. Spending an entire week on the Leader Dog campus during Summer Experience Camp is a highlight for her because of the opportunity to really connect with the teens.

Kristy has a dachshund named Diesel who needs some extra love and care since he was paralyzed. Kristy enjoys the outdoors, particularly camping, hiking and skiing.

Elizabeth Johnson, Certified Orientation & Mobility Specialist

Elizabeth smiles at the camera. She has brown hair cut in an undercut with a bun on top. She is wearing a black, collared shirt with the Leader Dog logo in white.Elizabeth has a Master of Arts in orientation & mobility from Western Michigan University, a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing from Minnesota State University, Mankato, and a Bachelor of Arts in English from Syracuse University. She completed her O&M internship at Leader Dog and joined the team full time immediately thereafter. Elizabeth’s past experience includes teaching adults, adolescents, and children in various settings.

Elizabeth loves working at Leader Dog because it’s a place of learning, facing challenges, and gaining independence. When she’s not teaching, Elizabeth enjoys writing, photography, traveling and a good cup of tea. She lives with a tiny cat named Leila, who has very bad manners.

Tommy Strasz, Certified Orientation & Mobility Specialist

Tommy leans against a tree on a sunny day. He is smiling at the camera and wearing a bright blue polo with the Leader Dog logo on it in yellow.Tommy joined Leader Dog first as an intern as he finished his master’s degree in orientation and mobility at Western Michigan University and then was brought on the team full time. He was drawn to Leader Dog's unique O&M training model and positive atmosphere. Tommy also thrives on the creative approaches to O&M encouraged at Leader Dog. He is particularly fond of taking O&M clients on hikes at the nearby state parks.

Tommy is married to Amber, an O&M instructor in the local school district. They have two boys and a rescue dog named Sylvie who has never met a pond that she hasn’t jumped into.

Leslie Hoskins, Certified Orientation & Mobility Specialist

Close up photo of Leslie. She is smiling at the camera and wearing a black jacket with a white Leader Dog logoLeslie Hoskins is a Certified Orientation and Mobility Specialist and the Outreach Services and Community Engagement Manager at Leader Dogs for the Blind. Leslie attended Western Michigan University where she graduated with her Bachelor of Science in speech-language pathology and audiology and a Master of Arts in orientation and mobility. She first came to Leader Dog in January of 2013 as a practicum student and again in May of 2013 as an intern before she joined the O&M team as a full-time team member in March of 2014. During her time on the O&M team, Leslie was the summer camp director and truly enjoyed planning unforgettable weeks of unique experiences and opportunities for teens to make connections. In January of 2020, Leslie transitioned to her role as the Outreach Services and Community Engagement Manager. She is enjoying her new role and sharing the unique programs that Leader Dog has to offer with others.

In her free time, Leslie enjoys being with her husband, two children and shorkie named Mila. She also likes reading, boating and spending time with friends and family whenever possible.

Lynn Gautreaux, Certified Orientation & Mobility Specialist

Lynn served as the Director of Orientation and Mobility at the Louisiana School for the Visually Impaired and the statewide Director of O&M and Visually Impaired Services for Louisiana until his retirement after 30 years of service. His first association with Leader Dog was as a guest orientation and mobility instructor in 2006. He was amazed at the Leader Dog campus and facilities as well as the passion, dedication and professionalism of the staff and agreed to work with the organization whenever possible. After his retirement in 2013, he began to work with Leader Dog’s O&M program on an "as-needed basis." He enjoys working with the diverse client base and especially loves to watch the clients' reactions and enthusiasm as their mobility skills improve.  Lynn received his O&M certification in the master’s program from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock and has degrees from Northwestern State University and the University of Southern Mississippi.

Lynn married Angel, his college sweetheart, who was also a teacher of the visually impaired. They have two boys who have both married and blessed them with five grandchildren (identical twin girls as of July 2018). When not working at Leader Dog, Lynn enjoys biking, swimming and being controlled by his grandchildren… especially his granddaughters!

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