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Professional Development Past Events

Special Education Directors’ Academy 2013

Bresnahan-Halstead Center/Colorado Department of Education

  • The annual Special Education Directors’ Academy was held in Vail, Colorado, July 10-12, 2013. This year’s 3-day collaborative experience was devoted to instructional leadership to increase student achievement. Together, the Bresnahan-Halstead Center and the Colorado Department of Education invited Dr. Bonnie Billingsley, colleague and respected scholar in the field of special education leadership for many years, to share research-based information on how to exercise effective leadership for special education at the district level and to provide support for principal leadership at the building level on behalf of all learners. In addition, a panel of building principals from exemplar school buildings in Colorado provided significant opportunities for participants to engage colleagues in dialog on these critical topics.

Mile High Down Syndrome Assocation and the Bresnahan-Halstead Center

  • Mile High Down Syndrome Assocation and the Bresnahan-Halstead Center co-sponsored presentations by and discussions with Mr. Jonathan Mooney (President of Project Eye-to-Eye, a mentoring and advocacy non-profit organization for students with cognitive learning differences) in Denver.  His message of presumed competence and the idea that all students, regardless of their ability are competent learners worthy of the same opportunities and resources, gave those in attendance (students, educators, parents, administrators, and others) a better understanding of why it is important to give all students the means to be successful in the classroom and in life.  In addition, students with Down syndrome (and other intellectual disabilities) became more aware of their own potential and how increased self-esteem can positively impact their educational experiences.  While student outcomes were the main focus, Mr. Mooney’s message resonated with educators/UNC teacher candidates charged with the responsibility of meeting the needs of their students that have unique learning styles.  The ultimate goal of these presentations was that students, educators, and parents experienced increased educational expectations in the face of adversity and were made aware of resources that can help all students achieve at a higher level.

Special Education Directors’ Academy 2012.

  • Bresnahan-Halstead Center/Colorado Department of Education
  • The annual Special Education Director’s Academy was a 3-day collaborative learning experience between newly hired Colorado directors of special education and their mentors who are experienced in the many facets of this position.  The Academy is co-sponsored by UNC and the Colorado Department of Education.  The focus of this year’s Academy was UDL, with Dr. Ernest Rose presenting as keynote.  Presentations and discussions were provided on this and other relevant and pressing topics such as budgetary and personnel concerns, and time was provided for individual questions and sharing of information.  The mentor/mentee pairing provides directors with support for successful job performance throughout the year and a team approach for learning/sharing while at the Academy.
  • PowerPoint Presentation

Terri Couwenhoven - Sexuality Educator for Students with Intellectual Disabilities.

  • Mile High Down Syndrome Association/Bresnahan-Halstead Center
  • Over the course of three days, Terri Couwnhoven facilitated small-group workshops for public school students, UNC preservice teachers, professionals, and parents regarding sexuality of students with intellectual disabilities.  For the district students, her workshops were conducted at four sites and separated between boys and girls of puberty age, providing them an awareness of their bodies, personal boundaries, healthy relationships, personal hygiene, and safety as related to strangers.  Evening presentations on the topic were attended by preservice teachers, local professionals, and parents.  Parents were educated on ways to approach difficult sexuality topics with their children, congruent with occurs at school.  Educators were given a better understanding of the level that some students can comprehend these sensitive topics and ways in which to communicate with students when situations arise that are difficult to talk about with them. 

Weld County District 6 Behavior Academy . 

  • School District 6 and Breshnahan-Halstead Center
  • Approximately 60 staff (36 paraprofessionals, 14 certified teachers, 9 school psychologists and 1 speech, language pathologist participated in three days of training and teamwork, targeting staff working with students with intellectual limitations, behavior/emotional needs and with Autism. The objectives of the training were to develop the knowledge and skills to develop:  (a) functional communication skills to assist in decreasing challenging behaviors related to communication problems; (b) problem-solving strategies to assist students with deregulation of sensory processing skills; and (c) adapted responses to sensory overload.  Beyond the Behavior Academy, Hailey Uphaus works with school teams to provide behavioral coaching for approximately two hours per month.  The training and improvement of professionals’ knowledge and skills will improve the quality of services that students with disabilities receive.

Family Professional Partnership Course, Spring 2012. 

  • (Banerjee and Brennan)
  • EDSE 530 is a required course for students seeking a license and/or M.A. degree in Early Childhood Special Education.  The course promotes in-depth reflection on collaboration with families of young children using a case method of instruction.  The Center supported co-instructor, Mr. James Brennan (a parent of a child with a disability) to integrate the parent perspective into course content/delivery that, according to literature, is an important component of pre-service training of educators and medical professionals.  Also, professionals who directly interact with families during pre-service training increase their confidence in implementing family-centered practices on the job (Murray & Mandell, 2004); thus, families’ involvement in the pre-service preparation of professionals may lead to positive benefits (e.g., using their voice to shape the early practices of professionals who serve their children and family), leading to stronger family-professional partnerships and improved special education services. 

Collaborating with Special Education Teachers in Hawaii and the Philippines: A Service Learning Opportunity. 

  • (Becker)
  • Two professors in the field of deaf education (Dr. Caroline Guardino, University of North Florida, and Dr. Joanna Canon, University of British Columbia) took 8 pre-service teachers, including Becker, to the Philippines and Hawaii, providing service learning opportunities for them and profoundly impacting their philosophy of education.  The outcomes of this experience were that student participants learned to differentiate lessons to meet the needs of diverse learners, demonstrated proficient co-teaching skills with peers and hosting teachers in both Hawaii and the Philippines, recognized and valued cultural differences, identified the disparities between educational facilities and opportunities of developing (Philippines) versus developed (USA) countries, and developed and conducted educational workshops for teachers.  The outcomes for the teachers and students in Hawaii and the Philippines were that they gained knowledge and skills through collaboration and professional development that furthered the education for students with special needs.  In addition, all participants gained a great sense of cultural awareness.

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