Special-education staff gets the spotlight

Date Published: 
March 10, 2017

Coastal Point • Laura Walter: For their devotion to Indian River School District’s most vulnerable populations, these staff members were voted leaders in IRSD special education.Coastal Point • Laura Walter: For their devotion to Indian River School District’s most vulnerable populations, these staff members were voted leaders in IRSD special education.“Above and beyond” were the words most frequently used to describe 17 individuals who were named Special Education Ambassadors this week.

The Indian River School District honored educators who serve as role models for their colleagues while promoting a positive message of inclusiveness for students with disabilities.

“Ambassadors will be those who clearly support a mission to allow students identified with disabilities to become emotionally, socially and academically successful learners ready to fulfill their lifelong goals,” according to IRSD officials.

“[These are] folks in our schools who really make it possible for our students to achieve their goals,” said IRSD Board Member Heather Statler.

Nearly 300 IRSD staff members nominated 133 colleagues, from whom one individual was selected from each of 16 buildings.

School ambassadors were recognized at the Feb. 27 Board of Education meeting:

• Sharon Lawrence (East Millsboro Elementary), “a passionate educator who inspires students and staff and ignites their passion for learning.”

• Sue Shultie (G.W. Carver Academy), “leading the TAP program to ensure older students leave with the responsibilities needed to lead successful, productive lives.”

• Sara Heinicke (Georgetown Elementary), “a student advocate, who is dedicated to finding resources and opportunities, including a new playground equipment.”

• Colleen Barrett (Georgetown Kindergarten Center), “leaving no stone unturned in advocating for students and supporting teachers in the IEP process.”

• George Schwendtner (Georgetown Middle), “who goes the extra mile for families, and gives students learning opportunities for their academic and life goals.”

• Helen Morrow (Howard T. Ennis), “admired by the staff and ensures students get every opportunities to learn, while diminishing undesirable behaviors.”

• Sally Benner (Indian River High), “having dedicated decades this this job and builds relationships with each student and family.”

• Christina Holmes (John M. Clayton Elementary), “who creates a culture of acceptance and understanding in the classroom, so students thrive and are ready learners.”

• Kasey Abbott (Long Neck Elementary), “whose bubbly personality ensures students feel loved, welcomed and encouraged in all their classrooms and activities.”

• Linda Brown (Lord Baltimore Elementary), “who is passionate about respecting differences and supporting equal access for students, besides helping with various special needs programs.”

• Mary O’Neill (Millsboro Middle), “who goes above and beyond to ensure students needed supports, including inviting kids to enjoy quiet lunches with her in the library.”

• Joanna Hudson (North Georgetown), “an advocate for students, constantly seeking ways to ensure success and help students reach their potential.”

• Christine Morrison (Phillip C. Showell), “whose excitement is inspiring, and who supports staff with new ideas and believes all students can learn.”

• Jesse Steele (Selbyville Middle), “whose calm demeanor helps him teach, build positive relationships with families and promote success for his students and all SMS students.”

• Marjorie Adkins (Southern Delaware School of the Arts), “an advocate for students, who ensures appropriate accommodations to meet their needs.”

• Melissa Glaeser (Sussex Central High), “so invested in the students’ social and academic wellbeing that students seek her out for help.”

Phil Shultie of Sussex Central High School also received a special recognition, as he’ll retire this spring after 42 years of teaching students with disabilities, including starting the SCHS Intensive Learning Center.

The awards kicked off IRSD’s first-ever Special Education Week, in which schools gave parents information about special services and Individualized Education Programs. Students also participated in the national “Spread the Word to End the Word” campaign that asks participants to pledge to stop saying the “R-word,” in order create more accepting attitudes and communities for all people.

“Our goal as a district is to ensure that every child has the opportunity to be successful in school and life, regardless of his or her disability,” Statler stated. “Support is crucial in the realm of child special-education services. Every special-needs student needs the support of parents, teachers and family members if he or she is to be successful. We hope to foster and strengthen this support network through our Special Education Week activities.”

Led by Statler, the IRSD Special Education Task Force will host the final parent focus group meeting of the school year on March 22 at 6 p.m. at Millsboro Middle School.

Any parent or community member can attend to give feedback or learn more about special-education services offered in the IRSD.

The public is also being encouraged to complete the survey online at www.IRSD.net (click “Parents and Students” tab, and then select “Special Education Task Force Survey).

“Questions on the survey focus on knowledge of special-education services of the district, knowledge of the IEP process, training of the staff, diversity and sources where people in the community can [learn more] about special education,” Statler said. “We’re very excited to get this feedback [to improve programs].”

In January, IRSD parent and alumnus Dana Lathbury shared her own experiences with special education, while encouraging the public to attend.

“You have parents that are speaking up. … It takes a special teacher to deal with someone with special needs, and they don’t get recognized enough.”

The public can also hear the IRSD Special Education Week podcast (Episode 15) at www.soundcloud.com/irsdspotlight.