SKC Stresses Holistic Special Ed Training

May 15th, 2000 | By | Category: 11-4: All Our Children Are Special, Tribal College News

The Salish Kootenai College (SKC) special education program includes two unique features. During both years of the two year program, participants work directly with K-12 students on the Flathead Reservation in Montana who have been referred to special education. The practicum experience helps make the classroom instruction more meaningful. Since the program stresses a holistic background in special education, it includes courses such as adaptive physical education and cultural arts in the curriculum.

The Associate of Arts Degree in Special Education was first offered in the fall of 1996. It was developed with grant funding from the Office of Special Education of the Department of Education. The Alliance Project for Tribal Colleges helped SKC obtain the grant by inviting faculty to participate in a special education grant writing workshop and by providing a mentor to help review the grant proposal before it was submitted. After funding was announced, Alliance referred SKC to Project Success, a sister program that offered a weekend workshop on the technical aspects of managing a federal special education grant.

There are many opportunities for employment in special education for people who want to earn associate degrees and work as para-educators. Partly for this reason, SKC’s special education program was developed to serve both two year students and those who wanted two years of initial training before completing their bachelor’s degrees in special education. Most students through the years have planned to continue their studies in a four-year program. It was not easy to design the curriculum to serve both purposes, according to Mike Hermanson of SKC. It needed to provide sufficient background for students immediately to become para-educators and at the same time to provide sufficient general education requirements for transferring to a four-year program. A reasonable compromise was established so that SKC could reach both goals.

In collaboration with the national Indian School Board Association, SKC has for four years also offered a summer institute for para-educators working in the schools funded by the Bureau of Indian Affairs. The institutes included legal issues, instructional strategies, working relationships, and issues related to specific disabilities. Para-educators usually attend training that is primarily focused on the role of the classroom teacher, but the SKC summer institute training focused specifically on them.

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