Special education teachers gathered across HISD to train, network, and share ideas as they prepare for the new school year. The training on August 15, called Job-Alike, brings together participants with similar roles at various campuses. It’s all part of efforts by the Office of Special Education to strengthen services to the district’s nearly 16,000 special-education students.
At Briargrove Elementary School, 44 educators who work with autistic students gathered and were introduced to Project Share, an interactive and engaging learning environment for all Texas public schools. HISD special-education teachers are forming groups on the site and using it to extend the impact of their trainings and build online support communities. Participants hope that Project Share will help combat the isolation that special-ed teachers, who rarely work as part of large departments, can sometimes feel on campus.
“I knew it would be hard,” said Judy Colston, a second-year teacher at Shadowbriar Elementary, but she emphasized that she wouldn’t trade her experience for anything. “I’ve described it as ‘the hardest job I’ve ever loved.’ The milestones that these kids hit may not be at the ‘right’ time, but they are big milestones.”
Teachers were given “Sensory Kits” containing equipment for working with autistic students. Items such as juggling balls, resistance bands, and weighted cushions can make a huge difference when reaching out to non-verbal students who are learning to process and express their thoughts and feelings.
“Everybody was excited when the kits were opened,” said Latonuga Thompson, a teacher’s assistant at Askew Elementary. “I think a few people were actually in tears.” Colston described the experience as “like opening a Christmas present.”
“Our teachers work very hard, and they have a very big job,” said Lorraine Klim-Drew, Manager of Autism Services. “It’s not just a job, it’s a life’s work, a dedication.”
The training took place the same day that the office of Special Education Services presented a progress report on their evaluation of HISD’s 2010-2011 Special Education program to HISD Board members. For more information, visit the Special Education website.