Julie Maier: Completion ceremony for our third cohort of students in the University-CDBS Partnership Project
On Wednesday, July 13th David, Maurice and I joined Dr. Pam Hunt, Coordinator of the Moderate-Severe Area Program at San Francisco State University and Director of the University-CDBS Partnership Project, and Dr. Barbara Franklin, CDBS Principal Investigator, to celebrate the completion of another cohort of talented teachers from our Deaf-Blind Endorsement Program. It was a wonderful couple of hours spent listening to everyone share their stories, experiences, and thoughts about what they had experienced over the past 18 months together. This group had a lot to share in terms of experiences. All of the cohort members spent several days in local Bay Area schools observing students who were deaf-blind from the preschool level to transition programs for young adults and had a chance to see many wonderful teachers in action using the practices they had been learning in our seminar sessions. One participant spent a week in Alaska traveling around the state with members of the Alaska Dual-Sensory Impairment Services, another spent a week in Hawaii working the staff from Hawaii Deaf-Blind Project, and another student traveled to Texas for the Texas Deaf-Blind conference and heard Jan van Dijk speak. Pam and I spent a fantastic weekend in Denver at the 2010 TASH conference with them where we attended wonderful sessions, including a few on deafblindness and vision impairments, and most of the participants are joining David and Gloria for the CHARGE conference in Orlando at the end of the month.
I had known all but one of these talented women prior to their participation in our program and it was thrilling to see and hear the growth in their knowledge and skills regarding not only learners with deafblindness, but also other sensory impairments, child-centered assessment and teaching, and collaborative partnerships with other team members, especially families of their students. It is such an extremely satisfying feeling to see that this idea of intensive three semester training program in the education of learners who are deaf-blind dreamed up by Pam and Maurice four years ago has yielded such fantastic results—surpassing even what they hoped to accomplish. There were several members of this cohort that said their experience in this endorsement program has changed the direction of their professional lives completely.
One memorable story came from a teacher recalling the humbling experience she had when she recently attended the American Association for the Deaf-Blind (AADB) conference and found herself in the minority and the person who could not immediately communicate and connect with others since she was not skilled in using sign language. She is beginning Sign language classes in the fall. Two other newly credentialed teachers told us how just this month a student with deaf-blindness joined their school and how excited they were to use the knowledge and skills they had learned in the program with this student and the new Beach Unit being studied in class. Of course, like all new teachers, sometimes those new skills and concepts don’t immediately translate with a new student, and you feel disheartened. The best part of their story is the that what ended up working was combining the knowledge they’d gained plus their natural instincts and some ingenuity, which led them to go to Ocean Beach after school and collect buckets of sands, shells, and driftwood to use to bring the many concepts of the beach directly to this student through tactile experiences.
Equally gratifying was hearing the positive impact that this program and these students (and the previous two cohorts) have made on the CDBS staff. Both David and Maurice spoke gratefully about how much the experience of meeting with the students for seminar discussions and spending time with them in the field and at conferences had meant to them. They both spoke of much they will miss this role when the partnership project ends. Lucky for us, we still have one more cohort of students continuing with their classes and fieldwork and internship activities this fall through Summer of 2012.
Congratulations to this third cohort! I’m certain they’ll make an important and substantial impact on lives the many students, families, fellow educators, and district administrators they work with for a long time to come.
~Julie Maier, Project Coordinator of the University-CDBS Endorsement Program in the Education of Learners Who Are Deaf-Blind.