On November 6th, 2015, the Arizona Chapter of the Association for Education &
Rehabilitation of the Blind & Visually Impaired voted to start a new award in honor of
Mary Jo Martinez.
This award is inspired by the life and work of Mary Jo Martinez, an Early Interventionist,
Teacher of Students with Visual Impairments and Orientation and Mobility Specialist
who passed away in 2015, but left behind a legacy that includes her work with Native
American infants/families, students and adults, in particular, the Navajo students.
Mary Jo was so loved by her family, friends, students, and her dog Lucky. She was a
perpetual teacher that possessed the ability to turn simple, daily observations into
important life lessons.
Mary Jo began her career in Chinle as a Physical Education teacher in 1984. During that
time, she was the athletic trainer for all the sports at the Chinle High School. After 10
years, Mary Jo became the district Adaptive PE teacher. During that time, she worked
towards her Masters in Education with an endorsement in counseling. She was a
counselor for 1 year, and then took classes at the U of A to become a Certified Teacher of
Students with Visual Impairments and an Orientation and Mobility Specialist. She
worked with students with visual impairments in Chinle for 16 years. Although she
loved working with all of her students, her heart was with the students with multiple
Over the 31 years she lived in Chinle, Mary Jo touched many people’s lives with her kind
heart and willingness to help any and every one. She was always willing to welcome
visitors into her home and became a “tour guide” to many that visited. She often gave
tours of Chinle in her jeep and took visitors “off the beaten path”. She also had a passion
for helping people in her community and began feeding people at church and delivering
meals to senior citizens.
One of Mary Jo’s best friends was a reservation dog she saved and adopted named Lucky
Dog. One day, Lucky found her and began following her on her walks day after day after
day until Mary Jo finally took her in. Rescuing dogs on the reservation became almost a
hobby for her. She found many homes for strays.