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First Year Teachers Biographies

Bobbi Barrows

Bobbi Barrows, this month's mentor teacher began as an AmeriCorps volunteer. Americorps volunteers work to help teach children to read, build houses, and respond to natural disasters. Bobbie was one of only ten national winners from across America to receive the All AmeriCorps Award at a national ceremony from President Clinton on January 15, 2001. She won her "Getting Things Done" Award for her efforts in literacy. Bobbi, who has struggled throughout her life with dyslexia, teaches dyslexic children to read in Mississippi. Ms. Barrows also began a literacy class for adults using the Texas Scottish Rite Hospital Literacy Program and she is now attending college to obtain her bachelors degree in education with a speciality in reading so that she can become a "regular" classroom teacher. Her story is a tribute to the success individuals with LD can have and the impact they can make on the lives of others. We feature her both as our First Person story and as our mentor teacher during the month of October.

Rachael Beekman

Rachael Beekman, is just completing her internship in a Washington, D.C. public school special education program. Rachael graduates this month with her BA in Psychology. She will be moving to California in July to begin her career as a special education teacher. She will then begin to earn a graduate degree in special education. Her interest in special education teaching comes in part from listening to her father talk. He is a special education teacher in New Jersey. In addition Rachael has worked extensively in volunteer position helping children with special education needs. One of those programs was EPOCH (Educational Programs of Children Handicapped), an afterschool recreation and enrichment program serving developmentally disabled children ages 8 to 12.

Dr. Linda Bland-Stewart

Dr. Linda Bland-Stewart is a university professor who trains college students who are about to go into special education fields. Dr. Bland-Stewart's area of specialization is speech and language disorders. This encompasses problems with language production, language delay, and helping children who do not hear know how to produce language. Speech and language specialists also work with children with auditory processing and central auditory processing deficits (CAPD).

Dr. Bland-Stewart is also actively involved in research. Her expertise is development of assessment procedures that can measure language abilities of children with cultural differences. Specifically, how can we separate a learning disability from difficulty processing a second language?

Jim Delisle

Jim Delisle, Ph.D., is a Professor of Special Education at Kent State University, where he directs the undergraduate and graduate programs in gifted child education. Jim is a former classroom teacher, special education teacher, and teacher of the gifted and talented. In 1992, Jim took a sabbatical from university teaching to return to full time teaching. He taught a regular fourth grade class.

Also, he is the Co-Director of SENG (Supporting the Emotional Needs of the Gifted), an international organization for educators, parents, and children. The author or coauthor of seven books, including The Gifted Kids' Survival Guide: A Teen Handbook, Growing Good Kids, Kidstories, Gifted Kids Speak Out, and Guiding the Social and Emotional Development of Gifted Youth, Jim has also published more than 200 articles in magazines, journals, and newspapers, and was chosen recently by his peers as one of the "Top Ten Authors" in the field of gifted child education. A former classroom teacher, special education teacher, and teacher of gifted children, Jim taught children in 4th and 5th grades in a rural South Carolina school during the 1996-1997 school year. He stays in weekly contact with these children, and is currently writing a novel about his experiences, titled "Turn Left Down the First Paved Road" (the directions he received to find the school where he would be teaching.

Nanette Danielson

Nanette Danielson, MS is a special education teacher in Arlington Public School's inclusion program at Zachary Taylor Elementary. A Maine native, Nanette attended Southwest Texas State University, where she received her Masters of Science in Special Education. Her undergraduate degrees are in Computer Science/Math and Elementary Education. She began teaching in the Northern Virginia area in 1996. As the sole special educator in a third-grade team of teachers, Nanette consults with the team on how to help children with learning problems succeed. She assists her colleagues in considering, devising, and modifying academic materials, instructional strategies, and behavioral plans for children with learning disabilities, attention problems, and/or emotional difficulties.

Audrey Di Maria

Audrey is an art therapist who works at the Paul Robeson School for Growth and Development, a psychoeducational facility managed by the District of Columbia Department of Mental Health, Community Services. The art therapy program at the Paul Robeson School helps children deal with the emotional issues often associated with LD and/or ADHD.

Audrey has been teaching and working at the Paul Robeson school for nearly 25 years. In 1997, she received the American Art Therapy Association's Clinician's Award" for her work. She is certified art therapist. Currently she is Secretary of the Art Therapy's Credential Board. She also is Adjunct Associate Professor in The George Washington University's Graduate Training Program in Art therapy.

Mike Kersjes

Mike Kersjes spent more than a decade teaching students with learning disabilities. His first special education teaching job was in an inner-city school in a cubicle that "barely fit five people,"…a "pitiful excuse for a classroom" that sent "a message to the kids who were taught there: You are worthless." Mike later began teaching at Forest Hills Northern High School in Grand Rapids, Michigan. His primary responsibility was to run a self-contained classroom for students from five different high schools.

Mike's story takes a teacher's sense of "burn out" in a new challenging direction. A teacher with a passion to help kids with disabilities and with an impending sense of frustration, Kersjes, sought a new way to help his students learn. His motivation to help his students see their strengths quickly saw the possibilities for expanding horizons as he read an article about a space camp for gifted and talented students in Scholastic's Scope Magazine.

He got the outlandish idea that his students would benefit from going to Space Camp, where, in conjunction with NASA, high school students compete in a variety of activities similar to those experienced by astronauts in training for space shuttle missions. His students found success. The program is now in many states and the film rights to Mike's book on his goal to bring Space Camp to students with disabilities have been purchased by Walt Disney Pictures.

Mike states that the growth of this program has been "phenomenal." When we spoke to Mike he was raveling in Minnesota. He says he now is raveling much of the time and showing others how they can inspire students with disabilities. His goal is to bring the Space Camp program to students across the United States. As part of that goal he created Space is Special, a not-for-profit organization, that helps special education students enhance their science and mathematics skills using space as a motivational theme. Mike told us that the story of his student's successes will soon also be featured in People Magazine.

Carol-Ann Kinane

Carol-Ann Kinane graduated from Marist College in Poughkeepsie, NY in 1989 with a Bachelors Degree in Psychology and Education. She became dual certified through a Marist/Vassar College program for elementary and special education. Carol-Ann started working at a small private school called Suffolk Child Development Center in Huntington, NY working with autistic students ages 3-8 years. In 1991, Carol-Ann completed graduate school at Long Island University with a Masters in Reading. She started teaching at Huntington Schools as a special educator and has been there ever since. She is in her 12th year with Huntington Schools and she has taught grades K- 6. Currently, Carol-Ann teaches in a 6th grade inclusion class with a team of Language Arts/Math, Social Studies and Science teachers. Carol-Ann Kinane moves with the entire class to each teacher and co-teaches with each throughout the day. Her philosophy of teaching is simple. All students can learn. You just have to teach to their strengths while working towards building their weaknesses. Respect is another key. If you expect to be treated with respect and hope for a respectful classroom, then you have to model and treat all students with respect as well.

Diane D. Painter

Diane D. Painter is a former special education teacher who radiates when she talks about her role in developing teacher- researcher models of training in the Fairfax, Virginia Public School system. Diane has her BS in Elementary Education from George Mason University, her M.ED. in Perceptual Impairments from the University of Maryland and her PH.D. in Special Education Technologies from George Mason University.

As a special education teacher she saw that her students seemed to learn to write better when using the computer. Diane noted her observation to a fellow faculty member who replied, "But why do they learn better?" Diane stated that she really did not know. She began to find the answers by more carefully studying the behavior of her students to see what it was-exactly- about writing on the computer that increased the student's ability to write.

Diane's questions about why children succeed led her begin the path towards earning her Ph.D. She thought in the research methods of rigorous, quantitative, scientific study of the Ph.D. program would reveal the answers sought. One of her professors offered her some advice. Why not remain in the classroom and study what really goes on there. "You know, Diane," he said, "you don't have to go through a Ph.D. program to do research."

Jane Quenneville

Jane Quenneville, an assistive technology specialist for the Virginia Beach City Public Schools in Virginia Beach, Virginia. Jane, was most recently chosen as teacher of the year for the Special Education Annex, an itinerant group of professionals who serve students with disabilities. Jane began her career as an occupational therapist. She has been working in the educational setting for 15 years. She became involved in providing occupational therapy services in the classroom through collaboration. Co-teaching and co-planning were implemented and her love for inclusion began. Through this collaborative experience and her interactions with students with learning disabilities her professional focus shifted to gaining more knowledge about the learning process for students with learning disabilities. This prompted Jane to engage in a Masters of Education degree program with a concentration in Resource Collaborative Teaching. This program gave her a greater appreciation for effective inclusive service delivery for students with disabilities and a knowledge base of the learning process for students with learning disabilities. Currently she is working towards her Educational Specialist degree in the area of Administration and Supervision. Jane is interested in being a building administrator and will strive to begin an effective inclusion program for students with learning disabilities.

Sally Smith

Sally Smith is well known to many. She is the founder of the Lab School of Washington, DC. Sally is a mother, teacher, school administrator and a university professor who has dealt with learning disabilities every day since the early 1960's. Her insights and skill in helping children with learning disabilities evolved from her desperate search to find how to help her son learn. Sally writes "I had the audacity (and perhaps na´vetÚ) to design and direct a school for my son, and others like him, when there was no such thing available.

Amy Purcell Vorenberg

Ms. Vorenberg has a BA from the University of New Hampshire and a MS in EArly Education from Wheelock College. She has worked extensively in independent schools in the Boston area. A special interest is the effects of the media on children. She is a Felton Media Scholar who has made a video program for children "On My Own-Kids Learning Adventures." A Shady Hill School teacher featured in teh video ADHD and the 21st Century, Ms Vorenberg is now the head of the lower school program at Shady Hills School .In addition she is a mother-"my most important job!"

Rick Wormeli

"I'm a practitioner on the front lines who uses the perspectives and strategic I promote. If we want to help students learn well, we must immerse them in rich, diverse and stimulating environments," says Rick Wormeli. Rick is a Nationally Board Certified Middle School teacher from Herndon, Virginia who was a winner of the Disney's American Teacher Award in English in 1996. Rick is also a nationally known speaker on Middle School education. A husband and father, Rick also knows the impact young adolescents can have on the family and the difficulties parents can sometimes have when their expectations for a child's learning do not match the quality of instruction found anticipated.

While studying for a career in medicine at Virginia Tech, Rick switched to education. Twenty years later he still radiates a passion about teaching and about teaching students in the middle school. He is currently on leave from his teaching position at Rachel Carson Middle School in Herndon, Virginia. Rick is also a columnist for Middle Ground magazine. He has taught science, math, English, and history. He served as a consultant with the Smithsonian Institution's Natural Partners program, involving his classroom and community in Dr. Clyde Roper's expedition to find sixty-foot giant squid off the coast of New Zealand.

Rick is the author of many articles on middle school teaching. His books include Meet Me in the Middle: Innovative and Accomplished Practice in the Middle School , and Day One and Beyond, a book that gives advice to Middle School teachers how to meet the educational needs of young adolescents.

(2006)