A group of Alberta teachers got an early start to the school year this past August by attending the Summer Symposium for Classroom Teachers of Students with Visual Impairments . This year`s workshop was presented on three consecutive days in Calgary, Edmonton and Grande Prairie from August 23 – 25, 2011. With approximately 70 attendees in total, the response to this year`s symposium was similar to that of 2010.
This event, sponsored by Alberta Education and CASE, attempts to offer classroom teachers the opportunity to gather some basic information about visual impairment prior to their first day in the classroom. Key learning elements included: sighted guide, hands-on activities with simulation goggles, time to explore various pieces of assistive technology and looking at a variety of on-line supports and resources. Based on the workshop evaluations, it would seem that the information was well received, with participants reporting such statements as `This workshop has given me some strategies to start with from the first day!` and `This was an excellent workshop…(it) gave me a lot of useful resources, tips and insight.` Workshop facilitators Brian Yee of REACH and Janice Leslie of CBE were pleased with the enthusiasm of the participants and used the evaluations from each session to guide and modify their delivery of the material as appropriate.
In addition to this workshop, a Symposium for Classroom Teachers of Students who are Deaf and Hard of Hearing was offered concurrently. The importance of professional development opportunities such as these cannot be overstated. This sentiment is reflected by one participant in particular who shared that because of the workshop she had `moved from fearful to excited` about the coming school year.