Dr. Roberta Schnorr and candidates in SUNY Oswego’s special education graduate program traveled to Syracuse for the two-day New York State Reading Conference. It was the program’s first time participating in the annual conference, which took place from Oct. 28-30 and featured presentations, networking events and workshops with important figures in the field of literacy.
For many of the candidates, like Danielle Wayman, a candidate from Chester, N.Y., it was their first experience at a professional conference.
“The keynote speaker [Maureen McLaughlin] was awesome, she had a lot of really great ideas to incorporate into the classroom,” Wayman said. “It was a really nice experience to go with the class, learn more and take advantage of the professional development offered to students.”
All candidates in SUNY Oswego’s special education programs attend professional development events with professionals in the field, as well as faculty and peers, during their graduate studies.
“We want them to see their work as being relevant and important within and beyond their classroom, that they’re part of a larger profession,” Schnorr said. “They see they need to stay engaged and connected and share the good ideas they’re generating with the community.”
Wayman’s first conference experience had a lasting impact on her view of professional development.
“I will definitely go to more, it was a great way to connect to other educators and they discussed a lot of interesting topics I’d like to learn more about,” she said. “Being an educator is a never ending process of learning and that’s what professional development does.”
Schnorr was invited as a featured presenter at the conference, based on her experience and contributions regarding literacy learning for students with diverse characteristics and disabilities.
“It was very flattering to be invited to the conference and connect with national and state leaders in literacy because my area is special education,” she said. “Literacy is often an area of learning that is impacted by disabilities, far too many students with significant disabilities don’t get access to quality literacy instruction.”
Collobaration accoss disciplines
Collaboration between literacy and special education is critical. Eighty percent of students with learning disabilities are diagnosed because of their reading difficulties and 90 percent of those students indicate reading is their primary difficulty, according to the President’s Commission on Excellence in Special Education.
Schnorr’s presentation focused on consideration for students with disabilities regarding the recently revised Common Core standards, which stress the importance of literacy in public schools.
“We’re right at the beginning of the transition to Common Core, so it’s very important that our candidates understand their role in implementing the standards as they move on to teaching positions,” Schnorr said.
Schnorr’s passion about the importance of literacy for all students has influenced the special education teacher education program development at Oswego.
“One unique feature of SUNY Oswego’s special education graduate programs is the strong emphasis on literacy,” Schnorr said. “It’s a priority in our program to prepare special educators who are highly effective literacy teachers.”
Wayman, who graduated with her bachelor’s degree in childhood education and women’s studies from SUNY Oswego, originally considered entering the workforce immediately after graduation. After speaking with Schnorr and assistant professor Dr. Amanda Fenlon, she decided to wait.
“I was so impressed, I have a lot of respect for Dr. Schnorr and Dr. Fenlon, they have a different point of view for special education,” Wayman said. “They have a strong emphasis on literacy and I needed this framework before I started teaching.”
Wayman is currently teaching and tutoring children with literacy issues through one of her classes. The experience has taught her the skills she needed to distinguish herself from other prospective teachers.
“Literacy is so much more important in our education system right now, having a special education or literacy master’s degree will make you that much more marketable when it comes time to find a job,” Wayman said.
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. Schnorr by email Roberta.firstname.lastname@example.org.