Two years ago, Elizabeth Rincon was seeking to end the last-minute scramble to cull professional development for approximately 125 special education paraprofessionals on days when teachers had preplanned PD.
“Principals had to either swiftly get something together for paraprofessionals in terms of PD or they would email me and I would have to quickly plan a PD module,” says Rincon, director of special education for Timberlane Regional School District in southern New Hampshire.
Rincon came across the Exceptional Child Online Professional Development System, which provides online, on-demand access to targeted special education professional development courses for administrators, teachers and paraprofessionals.
With Exceptional Child, administrative staff spend less time organizing training and searching for affordable, effective PD. The system also provides administrators with training on special education laws and important safety topics, such as restraint and seclusion.
General education teachers access video-based courses on topics such as autism or how to collaborate with the special education team. Exceptional Child also supports professional growth with custom PD plans for individual educators.
Paraprofessionals gain knowledge and skills to better support special education students and to learn behavior management strategies to address a wide range of student needs. Rincon adds that the ability to assign courses to new and longtime paraprofessionals addresses important training and PD needs. “It’s a web-based system, so I sign up paraprofessionals when I hire then,” Rincon says. “The system sends new hires an invitation, they click on it and they get into the system.”
Rincon says Timberlane rolled out Exceptional Child two years ago, in the middle of the school year, and it was a smooth process due to good two-way communication and feedback. Rincon adds that Exceptional Child wanted input from Timberlane and made improvements based on the district’s feedback. For instance, at Exceptional Child added new reporting capabilities to meet Timberlane’s specific needs.
Exceptional Child proved to be an effective solution for the district’s “Blizzard Bag Days” that require staff to work four hours from home on selected snow days. Rincon says paraprofessionals can login from home, pick a course, take an assessment and print a certificate for proof that they actually worked that day. “This is a valuable feature for our district,” Rincon says.
Rincon says one word that comes to mind about Exceptional Child is “personalized.” She says that Exceptional Child’s wide array of available content allows for personalization to cover all the special education PD needs in her district.
“To design professional development that meets everyone’s needs is challenging,” Rincon says. “The personalization of Exceptional Child was a huge benefit. Paraprofessionals pick different modules every day. I love the range of professional development that’s on there.”