Valentina is a former veteran special education teacher and current owner of IDEA Reimagined, a firm that provides training and professional development services exclusively to special education teachers and leaders. Her company’s mission is to increase student achievement for struggling students and those with disabilities. She is also a doctoral student and college instructor, researching special education teacher preparation.
Trench story: has always been there. Was a student herself w/ a learning disability. There were very few opportunities. No programs for st’s who were struggling. MS was a difficult time. Repeated 7th twice. Behavior problem. Was placed in a program to get a GED. T in program was sped teacher, retiring. Was on target to get GED. 15 y.o. Man tested her, asked her what she was doing in the GED class. Her scores were 10th grade and up. First person to say, “I think you’re smart”. The system failed her. Went to principal, said he wanted her to go right into HS. Still graduated at bottom of her class. Many kids like her ended up dropping out.
How did this manifest into your professional life? Her Master’s is in Sped. 1st year she and 3 others in dept were new teachers. General ed t’s treated her like a para or someone who could make copies. You don’t get prepared for all the compliance work. You can’t do sped in a vacuum. She’s always been an independent worker. It was new having to rely on others. Lots of mistakes made. You have to depend on ppl around you. She didn’t know how to teach math like her co-teacher. Didn’t have assigned roles. Took her Ed.S. degree. Did independent research on co-teaching. How to chunk info for kids for literacy, math, how to teach writing, breaking it down into smaller parts. Became a team took about 2 yrs. Became friends with co-teacher, mutual respect.
AT LSU, she teaches co-teaching strategies. What sped t should do in content-area CR? Advice to new t before they start is to get 3 good math, literacy strategies, behavior strategies. It’s a toolbox to have. If you have CR w/ 3 ELL students, 3 sped students, try one of the 3 strategies. A lot of sped t’s are “paralyzed” because they don’t want to do the wrong thing.
Tell about how your business prepares sped teachers? She coaches uncertified t’s. Most new sped t’s aren’t certified. She gives them crash course. During her univ. course, tells them sped is an on-the-job learning. Don’t learn it a ton during the degree. More about theories. Strategies you have to learn on your own. Teaches them behavior issues. Get them prepared to maintain for school year. Teaching strategies, dealing with behaviors. Spoke with admin to get their own cert for school. Got involved w/ state, she’s getting curriculum approved. We’re losing a lot of sped teachers, they leave 2x’s as much as general ed t’s. Her business started from that. It’s not that people don’t want to do sped. In LA there’s a lot of teacher prep programs, but for sped it’s at master’s level. They want to get a job as sped t first, then move on to another job.
Talk about schools/districts and what they are-how they can benefit/coaching opportunities? Just moved to Baton Rouge, district she came from she still does a lot of work w/. When she decided she wasn’t going back into classroom with COVID, she decided she’d stay and help her kids & consult. Her typical client is schools who are doing really well. She had envisioned “cleaning up stuff”. Helping getting them to the next level. She teaches strategies on how to learn pre-requisite skills. She stays at 5 schools who keep calling her back.
Is open to doing virtual consulting across the nation. Has been in touch w/ NYC sped dept. Has a mtg next month for that. A lot of districts are making the shift to specially designed instruction. Individualizing every students’ education according to IEP. She tries to stay away from workshops, 3 hour PD’s. She goes in & does a lot of modeling, examples of what’s done correctly. Let t’s pair up. Gives them feedback, reflect, judge each other. Does group coaching on a zoom. On-going community building on zoom. Sped teachers can be isolated. She designed an app to put resources in.
Tale of 2 Teachers podcast, still in the development stages (on the horizon)- hasn’t started yet. Will be 2 teachers; sped & general ed. Wants perspectives from each t. It’s like a good marriage. Telling their tales. Recording convos on co-teaching- laid back. Even for those who have poor co-teaching relationships.
Doctoral program- talk about your research. Started doing research after adopting 7 & 10 y.o. out of foster care w/ Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD) and Disruptive mood dysregulation disorder (DMDD) diagnoses. Is more from a trauma-based lens. Is is her last semester this fall. Wants to do something in area of teacher prep. Coming up w/ framework for specially designed instruction, morphing it w/ co-teaching. A lot of doctoral work is around what she does at LSU. They have adopted 2 kids w/ emotional behavioral disorders. Maybe will write a book down the line. Won’t necessarily use in her coaching business. it will address How do you deal w/ things no one tells you about what to expect? Book/dissertation will be a guide for parents who adopt out of foster care.
Secondary research: Childhood conditions that are rarely talked about in education. I have two children adopted from foster care diagnosed with the condition. I am currently working on a book to help other parents whose children suffer from this condition.
Out of everything…The inclusion model works, it’s the right of every child with a disability. It’s the law. When it’s done with fidelity, it works well. Click To Tweet. Having children of diverse abilities in the classroom teaches compassion.
Where can people find you online? website: IDEA ReimaginED Coaching & Consulting, LLC (specialedteacherslay.com)
Twitter: @SPEDteacherslay IG: @special_ed_teachers_slay FB: Valentina White-Rideaux has a FB group/community
View this episode on YouTube: https://youtu.be/1zF6J-x1pME