Guide Dog Mobility Instructors
The instructors at Guide Dogs for the Blind are truly leaders in their field. GDB's Guide Dog Mobility Instructors have gone through rigorous three-year apprenticeships under the guidance of senior instructors and supervisors. They study conditions that affect vision, learn cane travel, and, of course, become fully versed in GDB's own "Balanced Educational System for Training Guide Dogs" (BEST). They have passed written, oral and practical exams to be licensed by the State of California.
In addition to training dogs and teaching students, they assist GDB alumni throughout the U.S. and Canada as part of the school's extensive post-graduation services.
Meet some of GDB's Guide Dog Mobility Instructors.
Jeff Grey, Master Guide Dog Mobility Instructor
Jeff grew up in Springfield, Virginia. He received a B.S. in Business Administration and played football at the University of North Carolina. He had a successful career in the computer industry and moved to California in the process. Jeff's passion for scuba diving led him to The Marine Mammal Center, where he volunteered his time assisting with the rehabilitation of sick/injured marine mammals; he was also a member of the water rescue team. When Jeff decided it was time for a new career challenge, he joined Guide Dogs for the Blind in 1998 as an Instructor Assistant and obtained a California State License in 2003. Jeff resides in Novato with his career change Golden Retriever/Labrador cross named Trevino.
Heather Foster, Senior Guide Dog Mobility Instructor
Heather grew up in Bellingham, Washington. She now lives in Novato, California with her husband Joel and their dog Clover-Belle, a Weimaraner. She received a Bachelor's degree in Psychology and Elementary Education from Western Washington University. Heather started at Guide Dogs for the Blind in 2003 and became a licensed instructor in 2007. She enjoys snowboarding, camping, gardening, and taking her dog to the beach.
Jessica Drew, Senior Licensed Guide Dog Mobility Instructor
Jessica was a puppy raiser from 1994-1996 and completed two internships at the GDB campus. She then studied Animal Science with an emphasis in Equine Science at UC Davis from 2001-2005. During that time, she worked at the UC Davis Equestrian Center, both as a riding instructor and a barn supervisor. She also spent a year living at the Center for Equine Health, where she spent nights taking care of foaling mares and sick or injured horses. After graduating, she was hired at GDB as a Dog Care Assistant. She became an apprentice instructor in 2006 and received her license three years later. She has two pets: a career change Golden Retriever named Libra and a Paint horse named Maverick.
Stephanie Zabitz, Licensed Guide Dog Mobility Instructor
Stephanie began her journey with Guide Dogs for the Blind in 2007 through the San Francisco State University's Master of Arts Special Education program. She became a Licensed Instructor in March 2011. Stephanie had a lot of exciting work prior, from capturing and tagging sharks with Pelagic Shark Research Foundation to accumulating five and a half years of experience as a veterinary technician with small pets, exotics, and emergency nursing. Stephanie currently lives in San Francisco with her husband Spencer and their Australian Cattle Dog cross named Pete. She spends her free time traveling, backpacking, sailing, surfing, and playing the piano.
Melanie Harris, Licensed Guide Dog Mobility Instructor
Melanie started as a puppy raiser in 1998, and continued until 2010. In that time she completed a summer internship in the Training department at the San Rafael campus, and became a Puppy Raising Leader. She attended CSU Monterey Bay working towards a teaching degree before applying to work at GDB. During this time she worked at the Pebble Beach equestrian center; taking tourists on trail rides, and exercising and schooling the lesson horses. Melanie was hired at GDB in 2007 as a Canine Welfare Technician. She became an Apprentice instructor in 2010, and received her state license in 2013. She currently has one pet, Aislin, a female German Shepherd/Belgian Malinois mix, a career change who Melanie raised.
Danielle Alvarado, Apprentice Guide Dog Instructor III
Danielle grew up in Torrance, California. She received a Bachelor’s degree in Animal Science with a concentration in Zoo & Exotics from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and completed internships at the Marine Mammal Care Center in San Pedro, CA and Charles Paddock Zoo in Atascadero, CA. She now resides in Novato, CA with her Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier, Ryder, and Senegal Parrot, Skooter. Danielle enjoys camping, playing guitar, and sketching.
Hanna Belyea, Apprentice Guide Dog Instructor II
Hanna grew up in Torrance, CA, and received her Bachelor's degree in Biology from CSU Channel Islands. During college, she spent a summer at Sea Life Park, HI, where she interned as a marine mammal trainer, working with dolphins, sea lions, Hawaiian monk seals and penguins. Hanna also volunteered at the LA Harbor Animal Shelter and the Marine Mammal Care Center in San Pedro, CA, for eight years. She has been a part of Guide Dogs for Blind since 2005, volunteering with the local puppy raising club until 2011 when she began working at GDB as a Canine Welfare Technician. She resides in San Anselmo with her two rescued cats; Mr. Bean and Zeppee.