Presbyterian College Education Department Hosts First Annual Charles Chadwell Special Education Institute

Presbyterian College Education Department Hosts First Annual Charles Chadwell Special Education Institute

Rick Lavoie with PC education faculty members Dr. Julia Wilkins (L) and Dr. Elizabeth Lilly (R).

The Presbyterian College Education Department hosted the Charles Chadwell Special Education Institute in late March. It was attended by faculty and students from PC, Furman University, Bob Jones University, Converse College, Lander University, and Erskine College. Administrators of local schools and organizations for students with special needs also attended the day-long event, in addition to teachers from several local school districts.

The day began with a workshop by Rick Lavoie on motivating struggling students based on his book, The Motivation Breakthrough: 6 Secrets to Turning on the Tuned-Out Child. Lavoie is well-

known in the field of education for his award-winning videos, such as, “How Difficult Can This Be? The F.A.T. City Workshop” and “Beyond F.A.T. City: A Look Back, A Look Ahead,”which have been staple components of special education teacher preparation programs since the 1980s.

The idea for the institute came from a request by Taylor Brazell and Mariel Fridy, two senior education majors, who approached the education faculty last fall to ask if the department could host a weekend Special Education workshop. This event was exactly what these students were looking for. Taylor, who is currently student teaching, stated, “Dr. Rick Lavoie is such an inspiration! I enjoyed the opportunity to gain relevant insight on how to successfully teach unmotivated learners. He told several stories that reminded me of my own current students, and he provided a plethora of instructional methods that can be utilized in the classroom to motivate those struggling learners. I am very grateful to Presbyterian College and the Department of Education for sponsoring such an event.”

In the afternoon, participants attended breakout sessions led by special education professors, program directors, and teachers. Topics included attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, reading interventions, behavioral strategies in the classroom, how to make special education students feel welcome and fully included in the classroom, and more.

Samantha Tindal, who was recently accepted into the Early Childhood Education program, stated, “Having the unique privilege of listening to speakers such as Rick Lavoie and presenters from Bob Jones and Project Hope allowed me a sneak peek into what it means to be an educator who strives to meet each student’s individual needs. The wise words shared by these speakers who have had years of experience was exactly what I needed to hear. I am more than excited to use the skills I learned in the institute in my own classroom to be a more well-informed and accommodating educator.”

The information provided at the institute was relevant to parents as well as educators. One parent wrote an email to the education faculty the day following the institute to say, “Thank you for having this event. As a parent it gave me and my wife some new ideas to look at in working with our son.”

PC was able to host the Institute through funds from the Charles Chadwell Endowment for Special Education. The endowment was established in 1984 by Francis E. Cothran and his wife Jean Syminton Cothran in recognition of Dr. Charles Chadwell’s service as superintendent of the Whitten Center in Clinton. Billy Cothran, Mrs. and Mrs. Cothran’s only son, was a resident of the Whitten Center. The endowment is designed to be used for scholarship awards for students who plan to continue their education in the field of special education, and is also in place to “provide seminars, lectures, or workshops led by recognized authorities in fields related to Special Education, which will promote a better understanding of the circumstances” faced by individuals with disabilities and their families.

“Presbyterian College is very fortunate to have the Charles Chadwell Endowment to host workshops, seminars, and lectures related to special education,” said Dr. Julia Wilkins, PC assistant professor of education and organizer of this year’s event. “The faculty of the Education Department has already started discussing possible speakers for next year’s institute. We set the bar very high by getting Rick Lavoie for our first institute. We’ll have to decide who to invite for next year really soon, as people have already started asking for the date to put on their calendars!”

For more information contact Dr. Wilkins at