Jo, Vera and Mary believe that children can learn actively within everyday life experiences. They have combined their work experiences and backgrounds to create books that show how children learn and gain skills needed for self-determination. These skills include engagement, self-awareness, making choices, problem solving, self-regulation and self-advocacy. Finding My Way Books share true stories of children gaining these skills that they need to become adults who live self-determined lives.
Mary Birdsell is an author, a professional photographer and a former Speech and Theatre teacher. She strives to create images that reflect the strengths of each child. Mary’s background in education, theatre and photography intersect as she visually creates our books. She uses colors and shapes to tell a story. For her, each book is like it’s own theatre production.
Jo Meserve Mach, author and publisher, spent 36 years as an Occupational Therapist. She is very passionate about sharing the stories of children with special needs. Jo embraces the joy that individuals with disabilities bring to our communities through their unique gifts.
Franca Mongillo, has a Bachelor’s degree in French with a minor in Italian. She also has a Bachelor’s degree in Education. She is currently a very busy mom of four children ages 17, 15, 11, and nine. If she is not running them to hockey rinks, soccer fields or baseball diamonds, she is supply teaching for the York Catholic District School Board in Toronto, Canada.
MyaGrace Rentier, is a high school student. She loves music and has a gift for enthusiasm. MyaGrace demonstrated her self-advocacy skills by telling her mother that she would like to talk about books to help our team. Today she shares her gift of enthusiasm by helping promote all our ‘Finding My Way’ books.
Karen Anchante, translator and language consultant, has over 20 years of experience teaching languages. She has a Ph.D. in Spanish from Arizona State University. As a mother of two young children, she loves contributing to enriching projects that benefit children. She is also a fervent believer of the effective power of reading from an early age.
Crystal Uyhelji has been teaching at the elementary level for seven years. She has an MS in Education with an emphasis on reading instruction. She was inspired to go back to school by her two children: her daughter who has severe CP and her son with high-functioning Asperger’s. She is thankful to have been given the opportunity to teach so many students that differences are to be celebrated.
Vera Lynne Stroup-Rentier, author, worked in the fields of Early Childhood and Special Education for 25 years. She has a PhD in Special Education from the University of Kansas and is currently working at the Kansas State Department of Education. Vera is passionate about the inclusion of each and every child in settings where they would be if they did not have a disability. Parenting a teen and tween with special needs enrich her life.
Finding My Way Books are written by a team of professionals who are passionate about helping families promote the skills needed for the development of self-determination and inclusion. We want to honor children with special needs or disabilities by sharing their stories.
We have combined our experience in special education, general education, Occupational Therapy, and photography to create picture books telling true stories of children who demonstrated these skills.
Charles Jackson Mbagais a native-born Tanzanian from the Kilimanjaro Region with a Bachelor’s degree in Education. He spent five years teaching secondary-level Swahili in Tanzania and currently lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota working as a university Swahili instructor. He has a passion for working with children and supporting their learning.
ABOUT OUR TEAM