A group of teachers from across the province will be heading back to the classroom this fall with a few extra ‘tools’ in their toolboxes. Approximately 75 teachers and paraprofessionals were in attendance at a series of workshops presented in Grande Prairie, Edmonton and Calgary on August 23, 24 and 25th respectively. This ‘Summer Institute’ was geared specifically towards those who will be teaching or working with a student with vision loss during the upcoming school year. The workshops, sponsored by The Services for Students with Vision Loss Initiative and hosted by Crystal Park School, and the Vision Resource Centres in both Edmonton and Calgary, were very well attended. Pam Rannelli, Provincial Coordinator of the Services for Students with Vision Loss Initiative, was very pleased with the outcome, expressing that “one of the goals of the initiative is to increase capacity across the province, and these numbers indicate that we are well on our way!”
The majority of the workshop content was presented by two instructors; Niels Nicolajsen of Edmonton and Janice Northcott of Calgary, both vision specialists. They were charged with the difficult task of presenting a wide range of materials in an extremely condensed time period. Topics included: an overview of visual impairment, the expanded core curriculum, hands-on activities under simulation goggles, suggested classroom adaptations and/or modifications, hands-on instruction of basic orientation and mobility skills, and a brief overview of assistive technologies. Participants reported very positively on their evaluation forms, indicating that they enjoyed the hands-on activities best of all.
A key component of the workshop was to let teachers know that they are not alone in their responsibilities, and that there are a wide variety of resources/supports available to help guide their experiences in the classroom. Among these resources is a section on the vision.alberta.ca website that was designed specifically for classroom teachers. In addition, the website will be launching a discussion board early this fall that will serve as a both a networking tool and yet another source of support for classroom teachers. Finally, the participants will be asked to complete a follow-up survey in mid-October which will allow them to provide additional feedback on how the year is progressing so far.
Thank you to all of those who attended these workshops, including the vision teachers that were on hand to share their expertise, may you all have a wonderful and exciting school year!