Aug. 16, 2006 – For the fourth year in a row, special education professionals from across the territory are gathered at the Westin Resort and Villas on St. John to learn how to be better at their jobs. The Education Department's State Office of Special Education's Summer Institute kicked off Sunday and continues through Friday.
"I get valuable information and I can go back to St. Croix and share with my colleagues," said Cecile Renee, John H. Woodson resource teacher. "The students are the beneficiaries."
And, she said, she gets a chance to meet her colleagues from St. Thomas.
Analine Acosta, one of a group of teachers from the Philippines now teaching in Virgin Islands schools, said that while she teaches math, she has special education students.
Philippine-born Nelza Laurea teaches special education at St. Croix's Central High School. "I'm a new teacher and I'd like to learn more," she said.
The teachers were among the several dozen gathered in the resort's Coral Bay Room to learn about positive behavior support methods to use in their classrooms.
Instructor Donna Kirkendoll, a positive behavior supports coordinator for the Alabama Education Department, had the professionals come up with a list of rules they'd like to make for their school.
After the professionals offered up a long list of rules that began with "no," Kirkendoll had them turn the rules around to make them more positive.
"Instead of no fighting, try keep you hands and face to yourself," she said.
Carrie Johns, who serves as the state director for special education, said about 100 teachers, parents, attorneys and Education Department officials are attending the Summer Institute. The event offers various concurrent programs covering such topics as "Update on Special Educations Issues," "No Child Left Behind and the Highly Qualified Teacher" and many more.
Johns said that the Education Department has about 1,500 special education students ages 3 to 21 located across the territory.
She said that less than 1 percent of the students are severely disabled – the department uses the term severe cognitive disability.
Johns said that most of the other students need only a little bit of extra help so they can stay in a regular classroom.
"We want them to get right into the mainstream and get educated with their peers," Johns said.
She said that improving behaviors skills – a subject taught at the Summer Institute – will help the special education students improve their other skills.
In opening remarks Wednesday, Assistant Education Commissioner Anya Sebastien urged the special education professionals to use the tools learned at the Summer Institute to improve the quality of education for their students.
Johns said the Special Education Office funds the Summer Institute.
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