I am in awe and I don’t want to leave! The CEC 2011 Convention & Expo has truly been one of the best professional development opportunities that I have experienced in my two years as a special education teacher. Aside from the beautiful setting of National Harbor, Md., the sessions, presentations, speakers, and networking opportunities leave me feeling even more passionate about the career path that I have chosen.
Yesterday was a series of inspiring coincidences that ranged from meeting visionaries in the field who seemed to fall into my path and attending informative sessions with presenters whose words touched my heart, validated my new teacher experiences, and motivated me to continue to on my path by viewing each experience as an opportunity for growth.
My morning began with a session about new programs from California to support English language learners (ELLs) based on the Sheltered Instruction Observation Protocol (SIOP). I met countless teachers and graduate students in this field and learned about developing masters degree programs for ELL teachers in special education.
My next session discussed the journey to positions of leadership among various national leaders, ranging from special education directors to assistant superintendants. What I learned there more than anything is that as professionals, we must live our passions and welcome change as agents of growth.
The next session that I attended had me on the edge of my seat, nodding profusely in admiration and agreement as presenters discussed their experiences developing cross-cultural learning opportunities for graduate special education students and teachers through international field experiences. Brazil, India, Mexico, England, Serbia, Jamaica, Haiti, Nicaragua, and Guatemala were just some of the locations where such programs have been established and continue to develop!
I stayed after that session to exchange contacts, resources, and information, barely making it to another phenomenal session titled “Voices of Foreign-Born African American Special Education Teacher Educators.” Upon leaving this session with countless friendships and newfound mentors, I felt an incredible sense of validation for many of my own experiences and encounters. The articles of those professors, directors, and session presenters can also be found in the Spring 2010 edition of the professional journal Multicultural Learning and Teaching (http://www.bepress.com/mlt).
From there, I was invited to attend a meeting of the National Black Caucus of Special Educators, where I signed on to contribute to the publication of their newsletter with a young professor who teaches special education at City College in New York. We were later invited to several receptions and had a wonderful dinner where we shared interesting stories of insight about our career choices and experiences.
I am so grateful for this exposure to like-minded professionals who understand the challenges that we face in the special education field and who are passionate and confident enough to pursue ongoing solutions to help our students be successful members and future leaders of our society.
Thank you, CEC! More to come about resources, professional growth tips, and new insight in my next blog!