You might have seen Gina Woods walking along East Side Boulevard or a neighborhood street.
She’s usually walking with an Oklahoma School for the Blind student, showing the student how to get around town.
Woods, 52, has worked for OSB since 1997.
“I teach kids who are blind or visually impaired how to use their other senses to figure out where they are,” she said. “East Side Boulevard is a place where I teach beginners. I teach them to listen for traffic. They listen for traffic beside them so they can cross when the traffic is going to cross.”
Woods has long been interested in helping people with impaired vision or other disabilities. She traces it to her junior high years, when she was a counselor at a camp for kids and adults with developmental disabilities.
“For me, it was a big confidence-raiser,” she said. “I discovered I enjoyed the campers. They enjoyed life day by day, as it came.”
She sought a degree in social work at the University of California at Sacramento.
Woods said she wanted to work in rehabilitation.
“I like to work one-on-one with people, see measurable progress,” she said. “And you get to work outside. The world is your classroom.”
She said her interest in working with blind people was piqued when she worked as a note-taker for a blind person.
“She invited me in for tea,” Woods said. “She had a gas stove and I thought ‘Oh, she can do this.’”
Now Woods seeks to show blind and vision impaired people what they can do.
She first worked at the Arkansas Enterprise for the Blind before coming to OSB in 1997.
Meet Gina Woods
HOMETOWN: Muskogee, born in Sacramento, Calif.
CAREER: Orientation and mobility instructor, Oklahoma School for the Blind.
EDUCATION: Bachelor’s degree in social work, California State University in Sacramento, 1987; master’s degree from University of Arkansas at Little Rock, 1989.
FAMILY: Sister, Angela Ezekiel; brother, Michael Woods; two dogs, Hershel and Sasha.
CHURCH: Fellowship Congregational Church.
HOBBIES: Reading, hiking, kayaking.
Enjoying the outdoors,
on land or water
When she gets the chance, Gina Woods heads to the outdoors. She likes to see nature by foot and by kayak.
Her love of hiking started when she lived in Arkansas.
“I like to be in the woods when I’m under the trees, or up above the trees. I love to see the wide open sky,” she said.
A favorite place of hers to hike is the Indian Rockhouse trail near the Buffalo River in Arkansas. The 3.5-mile trail is considered a moderate-to strenuous hike.
“I love it because there are so many different things you can see,” she said. “There is a giant sinkhole, a waterfall you can stand under when there is enough water. There also is a natural bathtub. Water has smoothed over the rock. A hole was worn from the water and it’s like a big, giant bathtub. It’s like a spa you can sit in, but it’s cold.”
While in Arkansas, Woods also discovered kayaking. A friend had an extra kayak, and Woods went along on a trip in the Arkansas River.
“I like to go into coves in the lakes,” she said. “The attraction for me in coves is that you can sneak up on herons. Sometimes an otter or a beaver would pop up.”
She said kayaks allow her to “float in very little water.”
“I also float the Illinois and I love the Buffalo River,” she said. “I love streams and river. I like the power of the rushing water.”
Woods said she eventually would like to try white water kayaking, but there are several things she needs to learn first.
“I need to learn to roll in the water,” she said.
Putting clay figures
before the camera
The green clay character Gumby inspired another of Woods’ hobbies.
“I am fascinated by clay animation,” she said. “I love how the characters move.”
Woods recalled a TV show from her childhood, “Davey and Goliath,” which she said was made by the same people who made “Gumby.”
So she tried some stop-action filming. Her first film, begun in 2008, was “Socks on the Loose.”
“A pair of socks suddenly come to life and go into a pair of shoes and walk off,” she said. “It’s a 30-second film. I just laid the socks on the floor, took a picture, moved them an inch, took a picture, moved them another inch, took a picture.”
She said she made the socks walk by stuffing them with other socks.
“When I do clay animation, the films last a minute or two minutes,” she said. “It takes at least three hours for one or two minutes.”
Woods said she creates her characters from clay. In one film, she said, a character “got squished a little.”
“So I had to make a double character so it can recover,” she said.
She learned clay animation from reading books, she said. She started with a Kodak camera.
“It’s easier now using a Mac computer,” she said. “I can push a key and take a picture. And the nice thing about this program is that I can take a lot of pictures and they can show me what I had done so far. I can see how smooth it is.”
Deep in study
Woods kayaks, hikes and films when she can find the time. However, she spends much of her time studying for the ministry at Phillips Theological Seminary in Tulsa.
She said she isn’t sure yet what avenue to take — being a chaplain or a pastor. She’s taking classes in pastoral care, supervised ministries and weddings and funerals.
“My desire is to help people see where God is in the midst of everyday life, even when it’s chaotic,” she said. “It’s a gratifying thing to journey with them. I’m interested in helping if people do have a struggle, ‘Where does God fit in all this.’”
Woods grew up in a Christian church and likes to visit other churches.
“I also have an appreciation of other faiths,” she said. “They have things they share with Christianity. For me, I feel closer when I’m in nature. That’s why I like to kayak and hike. I like to be taken by surprise.”
She said she is “learning more that God is in community and being in solidarity with those living in the margins.”
“It used to be like ‘God and myself.’ I continue to have quiet time by myself,” she said. “But I am learning it is also doing things I can to work with other people. It’s a social justice issue.”
Woods soon will go to Tucson, Ariz., with the BorderLinks program to learn about immigration issues.
“We’ll learn how the global economy affects immigrants,” she said. “We’ll hear from people on both sides of the border.”
HOW DID YOU BECOME AN OKIE FROM MUSKOGEE?
“This job. I wanted to work with kids. I thought it was a nice town.”
WHAT DO YOU LIKE BEST ABOUT MUSKOGEE?
“It’s small enough to get involved in things you want to get involved with. It’s close to city life, close to things I like in nature. I found people to be friendly. Honor Heights Park is one of the crowning jewels.”
WHAT WOULD MAKE MUSKOGEE A BETTER PLACE TO LIVE?
“It would be nice if public transportation could be expanded with longer hours. It would be nice for downtown to have more places and be more pedestrian accessible. I would like downtown to have more shops. I would like a bike trail to Fort Gibson and Tulsa.”
WHAT DO YOU DO FOR A LIVING IN MUSKOGEE?
Orientation and mobility instructor.
WHAT DO YOU DO IN YOUR SPARE TIME?
“Study, read, go on walks with my dogs.”
WHAT OKIE FROM MUSKOGEE DO YOU ADMIRE?
“Retired Oklahoma School for the Blind teacher Carolyn Patocka. She was very devoted as a teacher and cared about the students.”
WHAT IS THE MOST MEMORABLE THING TO HAPPEN TO YOU IN MUSKOGEE?
“I couldn’t think of one.”
HOW WOULD YOU SUM UP MUSKOGEE IN 25 WORDS OR LESS?
“Small enough town with friendly people and places nearby to enjoy.”