Six special education master’s candidates presented their research for a statewide audience at the New York State Council for Exceptional Children Conference in Saratoga Springs, N.Y.
The conference, which took place Nov. 2-3, focused on the revised Common Core standards for teaching, explicit instruction, autism, multicultural teaching and other issues and practices in special education.
Candidates Lisa Coleman, Brandie Finger, Nichole Fraser, Rebecca Huntsinger, Amanda Powell and James Reagan presented their findings together as a culmination of the ten weeks each spent student teaching in public schools. Their presentation focused on working with students with challenging behavior and getting those students engaged in literacy instruction.
“The work we’re presenting on is very cutting edge because there are so many students that have challenging behaviors that teachers might give up on,” said associate professor in the special education program, Dr. Amanda Fenlon, who attended the conference alongside her students.
First-time presenter Amanda Powell, a special education candidate expected to graduate in December 2012, was nervous when first told about the final capstone project for the program, but considered the presentation a great success.
Opportunities for students
“It was a little nerve-racking, but a great experience,” she said. “I know we all got a lot out of it and it was great to share everything we’ve learned in the past couple years.”
The conference, which boasted around 600 attendees, offered numerous breakout sessions that took place throughout the day. Fenlon’s group generated a strong turnout despite being one of the few student-run presentations, compared to the large number of administrator and special educator presentations.
“We’re one of the only groups that present consistently every year, it’s a great experience for them,” Fenlon said. “It was very exciting and the largest audience we’ve had.”
The candidates’ pulled from their experiences working with students who have significant disabilities for their presentation, each giving an account of what skills and materials they used to increase engagement in their students and develop their literacy skills.
“Our whole program has focused on providing students with quality instruction, and it really helped the people at the conference understand better what we’re trying to convey,” Powell said. “People came up after and would say I’m so glad you brought that up or I didn’t think about it that way before, so it felt very worthwhile.”
“They did a marvelous job and it was very well received,” Fenlon said. “One participant came up to them right after and said it’s great to know that there’s really great teachers out there.”
This marked the fifth year Fenlon brought a group of special education candidates to present at the NYCEC. Through the experience, she hopes to instill the importance of professional development to the graduating candidates.
“If they’re going to be special educators in the field and effective teachers, they need to continue to learn and be lifelong learners,” Fenlon said. “The fact that we strive to provide these opportunities for our students sets us apart from other local programs.”
Powell said she definitely learned the importance of professional development through her education, a unique feature of SUNY Oswego’s special education program.
“People who get into education are people who want to do what’s best for kids, and the conference is a place for us to get together,” Powell said. “It’s great to see what else is out there so you can put those best practices into your own classroom and become a better teacher.”
Prospective special education graduate students will continue to have the opportunity to present at a large conference like the NYSCEC.
“We have started a tradition of doing this and we intend to continue,” Fenlon said. “It’s such a valuable experience for the students, we will definitely continue to make sure students have these opportunities.”
SUNY Oswego offers master’s programs in special education for both professional and initial certification. The graduate programs have a deadline of October 1 for the Spring semester and March 1 for the Fall semester. Students interested in the programs can visit the website or contact Dr. Roberta Schnorr, department chair, by email firstname.lastname@example.org.