The Presbyterian College Education Department welcomed more than 50 educators to a virtual gathering last spring for the seventh annual Charles Chadwell Special Education Institute.
Teachers, administrators, education professors, and other school professionals who work with individuals with disabilities were invited to participate in the event last April, which drew participants from throughout the state.
Rachel Ranley, a special education teacher at Newberry High School called this years institute “by far the best virtual professional development I have attended yet.”
Dr. Anne Ryan and Sara Brown of the Portland, Maine, non-profit STRIVE presented educators with a variety of activities designed to enhance their students’ skills.
“There was so much variety, which promoted by 110 percent engagement the whole time, said Rochelle Reid-Bispham, a special education teacher at Laurens District High School.
Alexis Jirowetz, a senior human development and family studies major from Winthrop University, said she looks forward to implementing the activities with young children in play and art-therapy classrooms.
“Each of the games and activities showed me how fun and different games can be — but the underlying factor is that they are learning and using their brains to really thing deeply,” she said.
STRIVE has 30 years of experience in program design and curriculum for individuals with developmental disabilities. One of the programs they offer is a two-year residential college program where students live in apartments and work on independent living skills while attending classes at a local university.
Ryan is the program director of STRIVE WorldWIDE, an online program that teaches independent living skills to individuals with intellectual disabilities and autism. Her co-presenter, Sara Brown, instructs students in a transitional high school program.
The Charles Chadwell Endowment for Special Education was established in 1984 as a gift from Francis E. Cothran and his wife Jean Syminton Cothran, whose son Billy Cothran was a resident of Whitten Center in Clinton, S.C. when Dr. Charles Chadwell was superintendent.
Dr. Chadwell worked for 30 years to improve the lives of individuals with disabilities in South Carolina. The endowment was established in his name to provide workshops, seminars, and lectures to promote an understanding of the lives of people with disabilities and their families. The annual institute at PC fulfills this purpose as people from around the state come together to learn about how to better serve students with disabilities.
At this year’s institute, Dr. Chadwell’s daughter, Ann-Chadwell Humphries, author of nearly 230 poems and essays, read a poem, “An Eclipse and A Butcher” from her new book of poetry of the same name. As an adult, Ann gradually lost her sight from a genetic disorder and she now composes her work using assistive technology. While reciting her poem, she was accompanied on guitar by Arden Wing, a graduate of the residential STRIVE U program. Wing was adopted from China and taught herself to play the guitar.
Dr. Julia Wilkins, organizer of the annual Charles Chadwell Special Education Institute, said Saturday’s event was a huge success. Such a good turnout for a Zoom event on a Saturday morning, she said, is a testament to the commitment of education professionals in South Carolina and their dedication to improving the lives of students with disabilities. Many of the attendees were regular participants at the annual institute. Several former PC education majors who are now teachers in Laurens County School District 56 attended the event and reported that they always look forward to the opportunity to learn new strategies and interactive activities that they can implement in their classrooms.