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, Master 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.
Toby Contreras, Master Guide Dog Mobility Instructor
Toby is originally from Sacramento, CA. After receiving a Bachelor's degree in Biology from UC Santa Cruz, Toby moved to Oregon and joined the team at GDB in 1997. He and his wife currently live in Portland; they have two dogs and enjoy hiking, traveling, outrigger paddling, and cycling. Toby has enjoyed connecting with clients over the years, as well as seeing and hearing about their success in the field.
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, Senior 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.
Danielle Alvarado, Licensed Guide Dog Mobility Instructor
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.
LaniJo Kircher, Licensed Guide Dog Mobility Instructor
LaniJo grew up in Girdwood, Alaska. She attended Colorado State University where she received a Bachelor's degree in Zoology with a minor in Music. During this time she had jobs as a Lab Technician, a Children's Ski Instructor, and an Environmental Education instructor at Trailside Discovery. During college she also started raising puppies for GDB. Several puppies later she was hooked, and after graduating she moved to Oregon and started working at GDB as a Canine Welfare Technician. She is now a licensed instructor. LaniJo now lives with her fiancÚ in Gresham, OR with their two dogs, an 11 year-old career change Lab and a 1 year-old Husky mix. In her free time LaniJo enjoys running, hiking, skiing and playing the violin in the Mt. Hood Pops Orchestra and the Vitula String Quartet.
Adam Silverman, Qualified Guide Dog Mobility Instructor
Adam grew up in West Hartford, Connecticut. After graduating with a degree in Psychology from UCONN, he worked with a variety of animals including wolves, exotic cats, and finally dogs. Adam came to GDB in 2011 and currently lives in San Rafael, accompanied by his pet cockapoo, Java. Adam also enjoys practicing Brazilian jiu jitsu, hiking around Marin, and spending time with friends and family.
Katie Anderson, Apprentice III Guide Dog Mobility Instructor
Katie grew up in Portland, OR and was a puppy raiser for GDB from 1999 to 2004. She completed a summer internship at the GDB Oregon campus and worked as a wrangler during summer camp for three years. Katie attended college at George Fox University in Newberg, OR, receiving her Bachelor's degree in Biology. Throughout college, she had various experience with exotic animals completing internships with the Oregon Zoo, Sea Life Park in Hawaii, and working for a horse reproductive specialist. After college, she worked as a marine mammal trainer for three years at Miami Seaquarium in Miami, FL. She worked with dolphins, sea lions, and seals in guest interactions and daily shows. Katie came to GDB in 2011 and enjoys traveling, hiking, camping, horseback riding, and spending time with her career changed Golden Retriever/Lab cross Odella, whom her parents raised.
Rachel Chamness, Apprentice II Guide Dog Mobility Instructor
Rachel was a puppy raiser for GDB from 2004-2007 and completed a summer internship at the Oregon GDB campus. She then studied Public Relations/Advertising at Pensacola Christian College. Throughout the summer breaks in college, she worked with Labradoodles, training them as service dogs for individuals with varying disabilities. After receiving her Bachelor's degree, she was hired at GDB in 2012 as a Canine Welfare Technician and became an apprentice instructor in 2013. She currently lives in Gresham, OR with her husband Harry and their two Boston Terriers Dozer and Kuba. Rachel also enjoys snowboarding, hiking, camping, traveling, and does wedding photography in the summer.