Wisconsin: Taking Learning on the Road
ESP members in Wisconsin are proving that geography is no barrier for support staff to learn, grow and advance in their professions.
Paraeducators Judy Emerson, Louann Pechacek and Brenda Olson recently spearheaded an effort to make sure their colleagues in Amery, a rural community in northwest Wisconsin, had access to quality professional development opportunities.
Today, paraeducators interested in earning an ESP Certificate -- or just in keeping up with the latest in their profession -- can do so without having to drive dozens of miles for classes. The classes now come to them.
At the trio's suggestion, the Amery School District created a committee of paraeducators to address inservice needs. The committee, which includes both Judy and Louann, then developed courses that fit into the statewide certification program and also arranged for trainings.
In some cases, instructors have been brought into the community from institutions such as the Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College, area Cooperative Educational Service Agencies, or Wisconsin Education Association (WEA). In other cases, Amery's staff conducts approved courses.
"These special people found a way to make it convenient for themselves and other support staff to take classes on an ongoing basis to help them continuously become better at what they do," says WEA's Professional Development Academy Director Debra Berndt, who oversees the ESP Certificate Program. "They serve as a model for others in similar situations throughout the state."
"The classes have been fun and the entire program has brought those of us interested in learning more information closer together," adds Louann.
Most important, says the trio, is the ultimate goal: improving the skills that help educators help children succeed.
"I have seen the paraeducators take ownership of this important training program," says Cheryl Wesle, Special Education Director for Amery. "The program has definitely benefited the district, the paraeducators, and the children of this community."
To next section: "A Look at Michigan's Certification Program"