The People Behind NSO Training

A couple of weeks ago, we shared details about our New Store Opening (NSO) Training for associates opening a new America’s Best Contacts & Eyeglasses or Eyeglass World store.  NSO Training wouldn’t be successful without the Learning Specialists who travel all over the country preparing our new associates for success. Learn all about them here!

Meet Our Learning Specialists

Picture of Mike VaughanMike Vaughan, Learning Specialist

Raised in the world of optics, the smell of freshly cut high index eyeglass lenses makes Mike feel at home. His father has been a licensed optician in Florida for nearly 30 years; it only made sense that after college he would fall into the business. For the last seven years he’s done every job in the store from Lab Technician and Lab Manager, to Assistant Manager and Store Manager. Being able to help develop field associates for the last two plus years is one of his proudest accomplishments.

Music and creating music remains at the top of Mike’s creative passions. Whenever he’s not on the road opening new stores, he enjoys writing music and listening to anything from Whitney Houston to the Mars Volta, and everything in between.

Amanda Valencia, Learning SpecialistPicture of Amanda Valencia

Amanda started in the optical world eight years ago when she took a job working for her local optometrist. A year later she moved to Florida where she went on to become a licensed Florida Optician and a General Manager for the Lakeland, Florida, America’s Best location.

When Amanda first started with America’s Best she went through NSO Training with her new store. That’s when she realized that training was something she had to do. Her dream became a reality two years ago when she was asked to join the Training Department as a Learning Specialist.

Picture of Jacob Strand

Jacob Strand, Learning Specialist

Jacob joined NVI in 2011 as an Assistant Eyeglass Manager with the America’s Best division in Minnesota. He went on to work as a General Manager before joining the Training Department as a Learning Specialist in September 2015.

Jacob graduated from the University of Phoenix with a degree in Criminal Justice Administration and is an avid hockey fan. When he’s not on the road facilitating NSO Training, you can find Jacob in the kitchen preparing a delicious meal – he’s a great chef!

Lesa Gabrels, Senior Learning SpecialistPicture of Lesa Gabrels

Lesa started her NVI career in 2002 and has worked in both the Walmart and America’s Best divisions.  She has held the titles of General Manager and Area Manager before coming to the Training Department as a Learning Specialist in 2012. Lesa was promoted to Senior Learning Specialist in early 2016.

Lesa’s love of travel has her visiting interesting places even when she’s not on the road for work. However, no matter where she’s visiting she’s always happy to come home to her rescued pets.

Tina Thomas, Manager, Retail TrainingPicture of Tina Thomas

Tina started her optical career at NVI over 16 years ago and hasn’t looked back. She spent her first six years with the Walmart division in Southern California before moving to the Training Department to facilitate NSO Training in 2006. In fact, Tina is one of the first NSO facilitators and became Manager of Retail Training in 2012.

In her free time, Tina enjoys tending and adding to her extensive music collection and spending time with the four loves of her life – Brian, her partner of 19 years and their three rescue cats.

More Than Just A Trainer

Being an NSO Learning Specialist at NVI entails much more than just training new associates.  Mike, Amanda, Jacob, Lesa, and Tina are their own travel agents, event planners, shipping team, and so much more.

Our Learning Specialists also serve as a valuable tool for our new stores, beyond the week of NSO Training.  They provide opening day support to stores in new markets, a 30 day follow-up when needed, and because of the bond created during NSO Training, they serve as an additional source of information for many associates for months to come.

The passion that they have for training new associates is reflective in the success of our new stores and the growth of our company.

Jessica Altamirano

Jessica Altamirano

Communications Specialist at National Vision, Inc.
Jessica Altamirano is a proud Veteran spouse who has worked for NVI since 2014. She holds an undergraduate degree from the University of Virginia and a Masters Degree in Public Administration from George Mason University. Jessica is passionate about corporate-nonprofit partnerships, philanthropic efforts in developing countries, Veteran recruitment, and creating a culture of health and wellness in the workplace.
Jessica Altamirano