As a person who is Deaf and Blind, Emma Riley has made it her career goal to provide resources for Kentucky students who are just like her.
As a Deaf/Blind consultant with the Kentucky Department of Education’s (KDE’s) Division of State Schools in the Office of Special Education and Early Learning, Riley believes all children deserve a high-quality education with knowledgeable, skilled and trained staff in a positive learning environment that is accessible to all.
“My favorite part of my job is connecting people to resources they didn’t know existed, and connecting people to other people because people and resources are some of the most powerful tools there are,” she said. “I love coming to work each day because every day is an opportunity to make a difference.”
The native of Burgin is a graduate of the Kentucky School for the Deaf (KSD) in Danville, one of the Commonwealth’s state schools. The other is the Kentucky School for the Blind (KSB) in Louisville.
Riley received a bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of Kentucky (UK) and a master’s in teaching in the Deaf and Hard of Hearing program at Eastern Kentucky University.
She then went on to teach American Sign Language at UK and KSD before accepting a position at KDE in 2016 as a transition coordinator with the agency and the Kentucky Valley Education Cooperative.
As part of her job, Riley provides guidance, technical assistance and support for working with children who are Deaf, Hard of Hearing, Deaf/blind, blind and have low vision.
She currently is working on an Individualized Education Program guidance document for working with Deaf/Blind students.
Riley also works collaboratively with external organizations such Kentucky Deaf-Blind Project at UK, which provides statewide technical assistance and support to people who have a combination of vision and hearing challenges. She also works with Eastern Kentucky University, KSD and KSB.
She is collaborating with Kentucky Deaf/Blind Project outreach consultants to prepare for the project’s first annual Best Practice Days event, focused on sensory learning for educators across the Commonwealth.
“I believe a team approach is necessary in order to improve outcomes for our students,” she said.
Working at KDE has allowed Riley to learn firsthand what impact the department can have on students, especially those with disabilities.
“At KDE, we all have the same goal – we strive for our students to thrive,” she said. “There is nothing more rewarding than seeing that come to fruition.”
When she is not working, Riley likes to spend time with her boyfriend of 10 years, William, and their sons, 4-year-old Vincent and 2-year-old Bryant, and their four dogs, one being her guide dog. She also enjoys gardening and reading.