Who We Are – Tom Winkler

Tom Winkler wears many hats, and all of them fit him well. He has worked as an Occupational Therapist for 38 years, eight of which have been at the John G. Leach School. In addition to working with students who have special needs, Winkler brings his experience as a former professional videographer and photographer to work where he captures all special events at Leach and more. Winkler is also a husband of 37 years, a father of two grown children, and a doting grandfather of six. As if that weren’t enough, he is also a missionary involved with a group building a hospital in Kenya where he visits regularly to offer his services as an Occupational Therapist, seeing as many as 700 patients in one week. Winkler is looking forward to returning to Kenya for the groundbreaking of the planned hospital. As a volunteer administrator, he also helped with the plans to build the facility where the work he and other fellow missionaries did was initially conducted under tents. “That has been a 15-year journey from the first time we set foot in the small rural village so it’s great!”

As for his work at Leach Winkler says, “I love it because every day is different. Every day at Leach is a mission trip where you’re able to minister to students, meeting them where they are and accepting them for their abilities versus their disabilities as we support them in any way they can participate.”  Winkler considers the staff at Leach as family. “We work together really well and I feel that the staff called to this building treat each day as an opportunity to bring access for our unique learners. But most of all bringing joy and making today their best day ever. As a family we lift each other up to be able to do this difficult and rewarding job. Not everybody can do it, it’s not easy working with children who have disabilities, but I feel like when we enter the building our eyes are different. We are more sensitive to the specific sensory channels our students use to learn.”

Winkler’s eyes as a photographer allow him to capture all of the magical moments at Leach.

“The pictures I like to take here at Leach are the interacting pictures; the pictures when you catch a moment between the staff and a student, those eye-locking moments that really tell the story of our students and staff and the connection that we have with our students that is so strong. Sometimes I find the best pictures come when I’m not trying, so I just keep hitting that button to catch that second of special interaction. When you get it, it’s like Aw, that’s exactly what I was looking for!”