Special Education Educators Gather for Professional Development

On Thursday, August 17, the LCPS Office of Special Education welcomed more than 800 special education educators to its first conference dedicated solely to special education professional development. Tedra Richardson, Assistant Superintendent for the Department of Student Services, knew from her time as Director of Special Education, Specialized Instruction beginning in August 2022, that she wanted to create an opportunity to meet with all of LCPS’ special education educators – “every single special education educator in LCPS in one place on the same day,” she explained.

Richardson said that the goal of this professional development conference was for the special education educators to become more familiar with the Department of Student Services and the Office of Special Education and to get to share best practices and get to know their colleagues from across the division.

Richardson and Dr. Paige Carter, the Director of the Office of Special Education, gave a joint keynote address and used this occasion to introduce themselves and their offices and staff.

Richardson, who has 26 years of experience as a special education educator and 16 years as a special education administrator, shared that she is the daughter of two teachers, and she grew up knowing about “the joy and energy” of being an educator. Richardson also shared that when her daughter, who is now 23, was in kindergarten, she realized that there was something different about her. Now, so many years after the initial tests and evaluations, Richardson reflected that being a parent to a child with special needs “taught me so much about how to do this job and how to support you in your job. It is because of people like you that have chosen to be special educators that she is successful today.”

Carter, who has 32 years of experience in special education, said that she became a special education major in the first grade. As a young child, Carter’s neighbors included a young woman – named Mary Jane -- who had multiple disabilities. Excited to attend school, Carter asked where Mary Jane went to school. Mary Jane’s mother explained that children like Mary Jane did not go to school. “At just five or six years old, I knew that was not right,” said Carter. Ever since, Carter explained, she has been committed to supporting students with disabilities.

Carter also shared the special education priorities for the coming school year which include enhanced professional development for special education educators, increasing opportunities for meaningful inclusion and increased collaboration across all departments.

Richardson concluded the keynote, reminding educators of the opportunities before them. “You have the opportunity over the next 180 days to build the self-esteem of students who are differently abled. Make sure that you do so Having Only Positive Expectations or HOPE. Make sure 2023-24 is a season of hope. Take your passion, compound it with action – actions you get to take every day – and turn it into transformation for the students you serve, for the colleagues you are blessed to work with, and for this division you work for – for the benefit of students, families, and our greater community.”

As of mid-August, LCPS has 1,010 special education teachers and 1,035 special education teaching assistants who support 9,404 students with disabilities.

Published September 5, 2023