Special Education conference focuses on creating positive culture for students  

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During her keynote speech Tuesday at HISD’s Special Education Conference, Kelly Brown told the story of a woman named Araminta Ross. As a child, she had been beaten, causing life-long pain and dizziness, and she had no formal education.

Brown, an assistant professor at Prairie View A&M University, went on to explain that Ross didn’t let her circumstances define or limit her. She eventually changed her name to Harriet Tubman and went on to be an extraordinary figure in American history. 

“The message I want to share is the kids we have can accomplish anything,” Brown said. “We need to help them to be the best people they can be with our guidance. At the end of the day, they deserve our best.”

Organizers of the third annual Special Education Conference at Pin Oak Middle School said they had two main goals for educators who attended the event: to walk away with a new understanding of instructional design for their students and a network of teachers from whom they can learn.

“(This conference) stems from the fact (the Office of Special Education Services) has so much professional development that we want to share,” said Joan Anderson, senior manager for Special Education Programs. “It’s difficult to pull teachers from the classroom for development. This year’s theme is broad in that the power is in the design. We have to be thoughtful how we design our instruction and engage our learners.”

Brown’s message, Anderson said, was the perfect fit for those in attendance, especially when addressing unintentional biases they may have regarding students.

“You need to be having conversations around your own biases and how you determine your (classroom) culture,” Anderson said. “I felt (Brown’s) message could benefit our teachers. I’m hoping teachers walk away with some ‘a-ha’ moments that cause them to do something different. I also want them to walk away with connections, someone with whom they can connect throughout the year.”