A two-day workshop aimed at improving outcomes for high school students with disabilities was held June 23 & 24 at Heartland AEA’s Johnston Regional Education Center and attended by 100 teachers and AEA staff members.
The workshop, titled “Improving the 4 ‘G’ Transition Network for Students with IEPs - Growth, Gap, Graduation and Gateways,” tied specifically to Heartland AEA’s agency-wide goals of increasing learning growth for students, decreasing the gap in achievement, increasing graduation rates and increasing gateways to post-secondary success.
The event provided tools and resources for parents, teachers and AEA staff to draw on when assisting high school students with disabilities in planning for living, learning and working after high school.
“This is the fifth year we have provided this learning opportunity, and we’re happy to see it continue to grow each year,” Sue Severson, a Heartland AEA special education consultant, said. “This year we had 100 participants, and it’s exciting to see so many educators willing to make a difference for all students.” Severson, along with Julie McGinnis, special education consultant, planned the workshop.
Highlights of Day 1 of the workshop included a panel discussion about preparing students for life after high school and a session about the University of Iowa’s REACH program. Panel participants were (pictured in the photo above, left to right) Matt Heldenbrand, Windsor Heights Hy-Vee; Angela Oberlander, former Search client now working at the Windsor Heights Hy-Vee; Sally Pederson, former Iowa Lt. Governor, board chair of the University of Iowa REACH program and mother of an adult son with autism; Marsha Burright, Iowa Vocational Rehabilitation Services; and Pamela Ries, University of Iowa REACH program.
The University of Iowa’s REACH program is a two-year, transition certificate program for students with disabilities. UI REACH provides a campus experience to empower young adults to become independent, engaged members of the community. Students experience courses, campus life and career preparation to assist them in reaching their full potential.
Day 2 included information about 504 accommodation plans, social skills and a presentation from Des Moines Area Community College about its Career Academies.
Participants reported positive experiences and were thankful to leave the workshop armed with resources to use with students and families.
“It is nice to attend a conference where the content is applicable and can be taken back to the classroom and applied to students and teaching methods,” Hillary Faber, Waukee special education teacher, said.
“Being able to hear and learn about resources and materials from a variety of people and agencies builds connections and allows us to work with and serve students to help them be successful adults in the community,” Karen Junko, Heartland AEA special education consultant, said.
“It has been a wonderful opportunity to get updated information on various resources to share with families,” Maureen Scheltzbaum, Heartland AEA parent coordinator, said.