Introduction to our guest blogger, Emily OttOver the past year or so, I have had the pleasure of working with many dedicated educators who are committed to creating inclusive classrooms through the use to accessible eduational materials (AEM) and assistive technology (AT). One of those educators is Emily Ott, who is on a third year AEMing for Achievement team at Greenwood Community Schools. In her blog she describes her experience as an new educator and an active member of the AEM team at her school.
Access to Education…Access to Thrive
As I began teaching, accessibility was an educational term that, quite honestly, really intimidated me. I wanted to be an inclusive educator. I loved my students and wanted them all to succeed. The issue? I wasn’t sure how to get there. I wasn’t sure what accessibility was all about and I definitely wasn’t confident in my ability to make and provide educational materials accessible to all learners. Hopefully this post will encourage, challenge, and inspire you, as an educator, supporter, school nurse, parent, administrator, student, or, school guidance counselor, etc. Yes, you, the one in the thick of it. Let’s break it down now, y’all…
The WhatAccessibility is simply this: giving all students access to learning in ways best suited for them…incorporating technology or not. This video will give you a brief overview of accessible materials in easy to understand language.
Caption: A student having a conversation through sign language with his classroom teacher reflecting on how his day had gone, what behaviors he had improved upon that day, and his behavior goal for the next day.
Students deserve to receive an accessible education every single time they step through the doors. Whether students come to school ready to learn or not, we as educators have the opportunity to create a safe place for inclusive learning with each interaction we have with each individual student. So the “when” is the moment the student walks into the building.
This is where accessibility becomes tricky. We can control what we can control, yes. However, we must also fight for what we believe to be right. Fluidity and communication throughout my building and district is started by ME. I can choose to begin a conversation about accessibility with colleagues in my area of expertise. When push comes to shove, the culture in my building and in my district is changed through me. The same is true for you. Challenge yourself to see each inch of your building as your “where.”
The Why and Who
The why and who are our students. They deserve it. They deserve the best. They deserve someone who fights for and believes in them. I believe in my students. I believe that their best is good enough, but I also believe that they can handle adversity. I believe that they are worthy of endless love and support as they journey through life. They’re just like me, just wandering around trying to figure it out. Let’s not forget why we show up and who we show up for. Here you’ll see some faces of my “who”. They also happen to be my “why”.
Caption: (Left) A student is smiling with his work after completing an assignment using Co:Writer. (Right) A student is smiling holding a note that says “I love you.”
- Start a conversation.
- Be vulnerable about where you are on this journey.
- Think deeper about accessibility.
Attending the Access to Education Conference the past three years has been a huge point of growth for me. I encourage you to look into attending the conference next year. Lastly, reach out! I would love to give any advice or encouragement I can. You can follow this link to find my name and get in touch. Also, don’t forget the resources and staff at PATINS who are always available to train, coach, and support you as an educator. I will leave you with an affirmation to hopefully help you stay encouraged as we close out 2021.
Educator’s Affirmation"I am a skilled and talented educator. I am not alone in the weariness of teaching. My best as an educator is enough. I do not have to strive for perfection. I will work as hard as I can to support all students in my sphere of influence."
I’m a second (and a half) year special education, teacher/dog mom, living and working in central Indiana (Greenwood to be exact). I began teaching in January 2020, right before the COVID-19 pandemic hit. It has been a wild ride, but I am working on being mindful, staying present in each moment, and remaining grateful. I love reading, spending time with my family and friends, supporting students, and encouraging others! I also recently started an accessibility team for my building as part of goals our district team created. We were third year recipients of the AEMing for Achievement Grant, so this was the perfect opportunity to think outside the box and create something great for students, families, and staff!
Caption: Miss Ott is smiling with her two year old Miniature Australian Shepherd, Maisie.
Extra Special Thank Yous
Thank you to Amanda Crecelius at PATINS Project, accessibility extraordinaire, for all of her support as I’ve dipped my toes into all this accessibility stuff. Thank you to Greenwood Community Schools and its leadership for being a community of lovers and includers.