Education professor receives grant for program to engage students with disabilities

Nov 1, 2010 | Education and Human Sciences

Dr. Rebecca Smith, associate professor of education at Louisiana Tech University, has received a $150,000 grant from the Department of Education to continue a program that fosters teacher collaboration in facilitating meaningful inclusion of young students with disabilities.
The program titled, “Collaboration for Inclusion in Pre-school,” seeks to encourage teambuilding and collaboration between pre-school, kindergarten, and Head Start teachers in an effort to gain insight about young children with disabilities, and develop strategies for working with these special needs students and their families.
“The grant is all about teaming and collaboration by general education and special education teachers at the pre-school level,” said Smith.  “Participants have been exposed to a variety of research-based strategies to use with children with disabilities while our school and center teams have been responsible for creating a resource manual on inclusion to share with colleagues.”
Teachers, school systems and Head Start centers in Webster, Claiborne and Lincoln Parish, and the Monroe City School District have been involved in the program.  The grant, in its third year of federal flow through funding from the state, has paid for various professional development opportunities, class visits, and classroom materials.
Smith says that first two years of the program focused on learning to collaborate and team with general and special educators together, and planning for a greater emphasis on early language and literacy.
In this third year, they are providing additional professional development opportunities for the winter and spring with the team from Louisiana Tech’s College of Education continuing to visit centers and classrooms to provide on-the-job support.
“Grant participants will also be involved in re-delivering what they have learned to other faculty members, districts, Head Start centers, and parent groups,” Smith said.  “A few of us will represent the program and share our experiences at the Louisiana Pre-School Conference in Baton Rouge in January.”
In addition to Smith, Dr. Hoon Choi and Dr. Dawn Basinger, both faculty in Tech’s College of Education, serve as part of the grant team for this final year, with Dr. Julie Holmes assisting as a consultant.  Janet Sanders, a speech-language pathologist and early interventionist from Webster parish, is the team’s school-based representative and has been Smith’s “right hand person” for each of the past two years.
Smith said she has already seen the impact of this grant and this program on the College of Education’s recruitment efforts.  “I am proud of the fact that Louisiana Tech has gained some additional graduate students in Early Intervention through this grant effort.”