Main content

Alert message

Who can come to Mentor Centers?

Protégés matched with a TVI and/or COMS mentor through the TSBVI Mentor Program and Texas students currently enrolled in the Texas Tech University or Stephen F. Austin State University VI/O&M programs who do not have a mentor are available to attend a Mentor Center on the TSBVI campus.

Can mentors come without a protégé?

Due to limited space, mentors will no longer be able to attend a Mentor Center

Can students in the TTU/SFA program come before they are assigned a mentor?

Yes, but only once.  You can come to a second Mentor Center when you are hired in a VI or O&M position.     

How often can a student or protégé come to a Mentor Center?

You can come to a maximum of 2 Mentor Centers.  TTU/SFA students who do not hold a VI position can come only once, then once again when you are hired as a COMS or TVI.

What are the hotel room arrangements? 

TSBVI will reserve your room and pay the hotel through a direct billing process. We do not reimburse incidentals such as phone use, room service, and/or movies.  Do NOT contact the hotel yourself.  We get special rates and will need to make the reservation for you.

Is my mileage reimbursed? 

Mileage to a Mentor Center will not be reimbursed.

Can my district be reimbursed for a substitute? 

Yes, you will get the form for this once you are at the Mentor Center.

Do I need to attend all 3 days? 

Yes.   The scheduling process on Sunday evening is also required. If you cannot come on Sunday, you will need to withdraw your Mentor Center registration and come at another time.

If I have a student attending TSBVI, is it all right if I observe the student while I'm there? 

Yes, but you will need to find out your student’s schedule before coming, and email TSBVI teachers ahead of time to ask if you may observe.  You must limit your student observation to 1 hour so that you can participate in all of the Mentor Center activities.

Can I stay at a friend's/relative's house instead of the hotel? 

That is great—as long as you can be at TSBVI by 7:30 a.m. on both Monday and Tuesday.

What if you make a plane, car, or hotel reservation for me and I cannot come at the last minute? 

You will need to email and call Chrissy Cowan or Melanie Schacht (, 512-206-9389) prior to the Friday before the Mentor Center is scheduled to begin.

Can I fly to the Mentor Center? 

If you live over 225 miles away, you may be available for partial or full flight reimbursement.  In order to be reimbursed, you will be required to get previous approval from Chrissy Cowan, Mentor Coordinator.

Can a family member come with me? 

Please check with Chrissy Cowan () beforehand if you would like to come with a family member.  Children and other guests cannot attend the Mentor Center activities. 

Can I stay at the hotel an extra night? 

If you live more than 250 miles away and you have driven by yourself to a Mentor Center, we can reimburse you for staying Tuesday night only if we have prior notice.

What if I have dietary restrictions? 

We serve food on Sunday evening and Monday/Tuesday lunch.  You will have the opportunity to note your dietary restrictions on a travel preferences form.  If you notify us well in advance, we will make efforts to accommodate dietary restrictions such as lactose intolerance, gluten intolerance, and/or a preference for a vegetarian meal. We will not be able to “fine tune” food orders beyond this. Individuals with significant and/or life-threatening food allergies should plan to provide their own food.

Questions?  Please Contact: 

Chrissy Cowan, Mentor Coordinator
TSBVI Outreach Department
1100 W. 45th Street
Austin, TX  78756

Phone: 512-206-9367
Fax:  512-206-9320         

Sunday Evening

 5:00 PM

 Meet in James C. Durkel Conference Center for light meal, orientation meetingg, and observation schedule sign-up.

 8:00 PM

 Drive to hotel.


 6-7:00 AM  Complimentary breakfast at the hotel.
 7:50-12:00 PM  At TSBVI campus or Austin ISD observations.
 12-1:00 PM  Lunch
 1:10-3:00 PM  Continue with observations
3:05-4:00 PM

Choose one:  

Continue with observations

Tour Criss Cole Rehabiliation Center (adult rehabilitation center across the street at DARS-Division of Blind Services)


 6-7:00 AM

 Complimentary breakfast at the hotel.

 7:50-12:10 PM

 At TSBVI campus or Austin ISD observations.

 11:25-12:10 PM


12:15-1:05 pm


 1:10-3:00 PM

 Continue with observations

3:05-4:00 PM

Continue with observations allowing time to return to James C. Durkel Conference Center to turn in reimbursement paperwork. 


Individuals who have completed the mentor application process will be required to attend an initial face-to-face training on the TSBVI campus in Austin, typically during the first week of December.  This training lasts for one and a half days, and covers such topics as common problems of novice teachers, mentor/protégé communication, record keeping for mentors, and promising practice standards for TVIs and COMS.

This face-to-face training is preceded by online mentor training modules.  Mentors will also be asked to participate in supplemental training after they have been mentoring for 3 or more years. 

Online Mentor Training Modules

Stages in the Mentor-Protégé Relationship

Mentoring a first-year TVI or COMS is both a rewarding and challenging role. Mentor Coordinator, Chrissy Cowan and former TSBVI Outreach Director, Cyral Miller, provide valuable insight into the mentor-protégé relationship and offer practical tips on professional communication.

Downloads: Transcript (txt) Audio (mp3) Handouts (zip)

As participants in the TSBVI Mentor Program, TTU and SFASU students and protégés qualify for a trip to Austin to observe experienced VI professionals at the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired and in the Austin Independent School District.  You do not have to have a mentor to attend.

Mentor Centers are scheduled three times every school year.  You may attend only a total of two Mentor Centers, and only one for this school year.  During a Mentor Center you will spend two days observing your choice of TVIs and COMS as they work with students. During lunch you will have the opportunity to discuss what you have observed with the instructors.  Hotel, 3 meals, and substitute teacher expenses are paid for by the mentor program. If you live over 225 miles away, you may be available for partial or full flight reimbursement. In order to be reimbursed, you will be required to get previous approval from Chrissy Cowan, Mentor Coordinator.

Plan to arrive in time for a 5:00 dinner and a (required) orientation meeting on Sunday evening.  Observations begin at 7:45 a.m. Monday morning and will end at 3:30 p.m. on Tuesday.

Mentors and protégés sign up for observations

To be eligible to attend, you must be a student currently working on VI or O&M certification in Texas, or a VI professional who has entered the field within the last three years. Your mentor may accompany you to a Mentor Center; she/he is welcome and will receive the same accommodations.

Mentor Center Schedule

This event occurs 3 times during the academic year. Registration is required.

Questions? Please contact:

Chrissy Cowan, Mentor Coordinator


Quick Links

Mentor Center Frequently Asked Questions

Mentor Center Additional Information

Three times this school year the Mentor Program will be providing two days of professional observation at TSBVI and in surrounding school districts for TVIs, COMS, and Texas Tech or Stephen F. Austin students enrolled in VI coursework. Participants will have the opportunity to discuss what they have observed and ask questions of the instructors. The Mentor Program pays for hotel, meals, partial travel, and substitute teacher expenses.

To be eligible to attend, you must be a student currently working on VI or O&M certification in Texas, or a VI professional who has entered the field within the last three years. Your mentor may accompany you to a Mentor Center; she/he is welcome and will receive the same accommodations.

Mentor Center Schedule

This event occurs 3 times during the academic year. Registration is required.

  • October 26-28, 2014
  • February 8-10, 2015
  • April 26-28, 2015


Please contact:

Chrissy Cowan, Mentor Coordinator

This section includes information about the benefits of having a mentor, the length of the mentor assignment, requirements on the part of the protégé, and additional supports available for novice teachers. 

Why do VI professionals need a mentor program?

The mentor program is designed to support pre-service training by introducing the participants to the unique intricacies and challenges of being an itinerant VI professional, and to assist in the transition from novice to VI professional. The itinerant VI position is unique in that:

  • VI professionals work with students with a wide range of both cognitive and visual abilities as well as ages from birth to 21. 
  • TVI or COMS are often the only VI professionals employed by small and rural districts. Consequently, they may be isolated from peers who could provide knowledgeable support. VI professionals must also be able to interact frequently and successfully with parents, other teachers, professionals serving their students, and administrators in numerous buildings.
  • In order to successfully serve students and meet the demands of the job, well-developed organizational and people skills are crucial.
  • Opportunities for the protege to observe the mentor in situations such as conducting evaluations, attending ARD meetings, providing direct instruction and consultations, writing IEP goals, scheduling daily plans, and keeping records
  • Introductions to sources for VI-related professional development such as workshops, conferences, web sites, and publications
  • Informal observations of the protege working with students during the first year of employment for the purpose of providing supportive feedback
  • Networking opportunities with other professionals in the field of visual impairment.

When and for how long is a VI professional assigned a mentor?

Individuals are assigned a mentor when they are hired by a school district as a TVI or COMS. The mentor relationship continues through the protégé’s practicum/internship period and extends one year beyond certification as a VI professional in Texas schools. In general, the mentor/protégé assignment lasts for two years.  TVIs/COMS who move to Texas from another state also qualify for a mentor for one year.  In addition, a mentor can often be provided for TVIs/COMS who have re-entered a teaching position after a long absence. 

How will a protégé benefit from having a mentor?

A mentor is a source of information and support for a protégé and a guide to a new profession. Some activities a mentor may provide include:

What will the protégé be required to do?

Protégés are required to maintain contact with the mentor.  Specifically, they will be required to respond to email and phone messages.  The mentor will keep a log on the interactions and will turn this log into the mentor coordinator in April.  Protégés will receive an email message in December asking for approximate interactions with the mentor.  Protégés will also be contacted in May-June for information related to their projected university/professional status for the subsequent school year.

Protégés and their mentors are invited to attend one of the three Mentor Centers (link)held at TSBVI.  where participants observe select TVIs and COMS as they work with a variety of students with visual impairments. 

What happens with the protégé and mentor do not get along?

The mentor coordinator should be contacted if the mentor assignment is not working for any reason.  Adjustments will be made, based on input from the protégé. 

Additional Supports for Protégé

Sometimes it is not possible for a mentor to spend direct contact time with the protégé in the protégé’s district, especially when the mentor and protégé are employed in different districts.  When this is the case, the mentor and protégé team can request that additional support be provided from a VI or O&M consultant from their ESC consultant(s), and from TSBVI Outreach Services.  The Outreach consultant will tailor the on-site support according to the needs identified by the mentor/protégé team.  Possible subjects may include (but not be restricted to) the following topics:

  • Functional vision evaluation, learning media assessments, O&M evaluations
  • Roles and responsibilities of VI professionals
  • Infant/toddler services
  • Programming for students with significant cognitive impairments, e.g., active learning, routines
  • Consult/collaborative vs. direct services

For additional information contact:

Chrissy Cowan, TSBVI Outreach Services
Mentor Coordinator
1100 W. 45th Street
Austin, Texas 78756
(512) 206-9367

This section includes information on the qualifications for being a mentor, time commitment, responsibilities, mentor training modules, and how to apply.

Who is qualified to be a VI and/or O&M mentor?

VI teachers (TVIs) and Certified O&M specialists (COMS) are qualified to be mentors if they have the following:

  • commitment to serve as a mentor for two years
  • four years of experience as a VI professional
  • good communication skills
  • solid understanding of the professional field
  • written administrative approval and support
  • current A.C.V.R.E.P. O&M certification (COMS only)

What is the process for becoming a mentor?

Mentors may be self-nominated or nominated by either their school district or the VI staff of their local ESC.

All applicants must submit the following documentation:

What will a VI/O&M mentor do?

Each mentor/protégé team will be issued a contact log which lists activities or topics that should be covered over the course of the mentor assignment. Contact logs are shared with the Mentor Coordinator to provide a statewide, global view of what is being worked on by the mentor/protégé teams. Mentors will not be asked to provide grades or evaluations.

What time commitment is involved in being a mentor?

In general, mentors will be teamed with their protégé for two years, assuming that the protégé is employed in the educational sector as a VI professional.

Interaction Formats

The mentor and the protégé may interact through a variety of different methods including (but not limited to):

  • personal, face-to-face meetings
  • telephone conversations or conference calls
  • video demonstrations or observations
  • interactive television
  • e-mail
  • sending each other products/resources (articles, materials, kits, books, etc.)
  • "shadowing" of the mentor by the protégé

How will mentors be trained?

Each mentor will be required to attend mentor training. Completion of an on-line module is required prior to attending the training. The mentor program will pay for all expenses for the mentors to participate in the training.

Interested in being a mentor?

Please contact:
Chrissy Cowan, TSBVI Mentor Coordinator