It's been quite a year for me, and very likely for all of us, for a variety of reasons. A common theme however, for all of us Indiana educators, is almost certainly the transition to, from, and back to again, remote instruction and learning due to the COVID19 pandemic!
As 2021 draws near, with a mere 21 days left in 2020, I recently carved out a some time to reflect on a few major aspects of my life. One of which, is my 2020 knee injury and a second is the PATINS Project itself, which has been the greatest consumer of my time and my passion for the last fourteen and half years! It's become apparent to me, during my reflecting, that Indiana is quite fortunate to have PATINS and during this unprecented time for us, the PATINS team has shown it's colors in ways that shouldn't go without notice.
142 days into 2020, I fully dislocated my right knee, tearing all four of the ligaments and meniscus.That means, for the last 233 days, I've had to figure out new ways of doing things that used to be simple. I’ve had to work hard on getting repaired, facilitating healing, re-building strength, seeking flexibility, and re-gaining my balance. ...a strong analogy for public eduction during the pandemic, as well!
I'm proud to say that last weekend, I finally threw a leg over a dirtbike again for the first time in 233 days. During those first few minutes, riding through my first easy trail, I realized that it's been the support from my "team" that was integral to that moment of accomplishment. My wife for the daily balance between push, protect, and comfort. My kids for helping with things I just couldn't do. My family and my riding buddies for the constant check-ins, pushing me to work out and go to Physical Therapy PT (pain and torture), including me in their riding videos even when I couldn't be there. The list goes on and on... the common theme is, TEAM...Support...Perseverance. The result is success. The feeling is hope and energy.
I'm even more proud to say that during the past 274 days of the COVID19 pandemic, the PATINS team has rallied in ways that have not only provided continuous support to Indiana's public schools educators, but also serves as a model for what a team can look like and confirmation that this particular team can and will re-tool, adjust, accommodate, and leave no stone unturned when it comes to supporting our Indiana educators!
New Ways of Doing Things: Two PATINS staff, Specialist Lisa Benfield and Assistant Director/Specialist David Jackson celebrated their first anniversary with us during the pandemic! Specialist Amanda Crecelius also celebrates her first six months with us! These new PATINS additions have not only spent their first year learning a new job, but helping to figure out ways to do their new job in entirely new ways! My hat is off to you three! Visit their pages on the PATINS website, reach out to them, and embrace the knowledge and skill they bring to their new-ish positions on this team!
For over 20 years, PATINS has held two annual statewide events; our November Access To Education conference and our April Tech Expo. In 2020, both events were forced to either be cancelled or held virtually for the first time ever. We chose the latter. I'm proud to say that this team, lead by our Event Manager Jennifer Conti, (2 yrs w/PATINS) didn't hesitate to jump into planning and implementation to effectively host two of our most successful events ever! Tech Expo 2020 doubled our usual in-person registration numbers and Access To Education 2020 had participants telling us it was the best one they'd ever attended! A handful of attendee comments from those two events:
"All presenters were great. Virtual learning recharged my momentum for teaching". - Lena Cummins, Special Education Administrator, Charter School of the Dunes
"I am extremely impressed as to how you pull this event off virtually, I got a lot of information from the presentations as well as the virtual exposition hall, I visited quite a few of the websites that were presented there and I got valuable information!" - Sandra Durham, Occupational Therapist, Indiana State University
"I really felt that the quality of presenters and topics this year was great! I came away from this renewed and ready to continue serving my students no matter what environment they may be in." - Kelsey Norris, Special Educator, Perry Township Schools
"Lance McLemore provided inspiration and a reminder of why I got into the special education field. He was amazing! I found that Apps & Extensions and Alternative Pencils gave lots of great ideas, many of which I could use right away. I appreciate that many of the ideas were free!" - Mandy Narcaroti, BLV Teacher, Cooperative School Services
"I truly gained from all of the session, they all offered things I can use today. Thanks so much." - Kimberly Gauck, Special Educator Greensburg Community Schools
"Supporting Families through Integrated Supports, Low Vision and Blindness Supports for the Classroom, and What's New and What to do with Saltillo. I believe all three of these to be equally valuable to me in my educational setting". - Melissa VanLue, Special Educator, Indiana School for the Blind and Visually Impaired
"The information presented by Dr. Grillo on assistive technology and incorporating AT in the IEP was very beneficial to me. This is information I did not previously know, and I'm looking forward to having access to the booklet with all the AT that can be used with state testing." - Kristin Girton, Cooperative School Services
"Technology was so smooth today!! THANK you for the captioning! I am totally impressed with how you all were able to transform this conference to 100% virtual!" - Laura Knoke, NEISEC, Teacher of Students who are Blind/Low Vision
Repair & Heal: As with my old knee, sometimes things within PATINS break and we have to find ways to fix or make them whole again. During the period right before the pandemic, we lost two valuable staff members and were forced to work with a new fiscal agency. While the timing of these things made for some difficult months, current staff Jennifer Conti and Felisia O'Bold (2 yrs w/PATINS) stepped up to take on additional roles boldly, and new staff Amanda Crecelius worked creatively and tireless to quickly repair any start of hole in the bottom of the boat! We also realized quickly that all of our friends out there in the schools were also scrambling to repair their ships! This PATINS team immediately pulled together to produce a listing of resources specific to Continuous Learning to do COVID19 here, regular Open Virtual Office Hours, and the PATINS team Commitment to Anti-Racism here.
Building Strength and Being Flexible: One might consider it enough to be able to say that your team has worked hard to maintain the levels of pre-pandemic, but it's actually really easy for me to say that this PATINS team has built even more strength through offerings and services than ever before the pandemic! Consider our YouTube playlist of NINE Access to Education 2020 training videos by PATINS Specialists, Kelli Suding (8 yrs w/PATINS), Lisa Benfield, Jena Fahlbush (5 yrs w/PATINS), Bev Sharritt (4 yrs w/PATINS), David Jackson, Katie Taylor (2 yrs w/PATINS), Amanda Crecelius, Jessica Conrad (4 yrs w/PATINS), and the ICAM Team of Sandy Stabenfeldt (19 yrs w/PATINS), Jeff Bond (22 yrs w/PATINS), and Martha Hammond (10 yrs w/PATINS)! ...check out all NINE great training video titles PLUS the first-ever virtual Assistive Technology Exporatorium recording!
...and by the numbers, this school year so far, PATINS has:
-responded to 1,145 requests for technical assistance from Indiana educators.
-supplied nearly 1000 braille, large print and tactile graphics to over 100 school corporations, thanks to our amazing IERC staff!
-supplied 1,507 accessible versions of textbooks, thanks to the ICAM Staff!
-attended nearly 500 meetings and conducted over 150 meetings.
-provided services to 98% of the Special Education Cooperatives in the state.
-provided services to 68% of the School Corporations in the state.
-worked with 485 unique School Buildings in the state.
-provided a Virtual EdCamp and Make It At Home Training for 120 educators.
-fulfilled 38 unique requests for 80 individual devices for PATINS Refurbished Technology
-loaned out 504 pieces of assistive technology from our Lending Library! Yes, you read that right! Even with school buildings being closed down intermittently, our Lending Library Managers, Sheri Schoenbeck (19 yrs w/PATINS) and Carrie Owens (14 yrs w/PATINS) have been ultra-creative and diligent and we are still shipping items to schools AND paying for them to be shipped back to us at the end of your 6-week trial! Here are a few comments from recent PATINS Lending Library borrowers:
"I have no idea what I would have done if not for all the guidance PATINS has provided. Everyone has gone above and beyond to make sure my student has what he needs and is succeeding."
"Thank you for offering your services. It helps so many of our students in deciding what device works best for them."
"Thank you so much for always having what I think I need for my students. You are much appreciated."
"Thankful for the time and thorough training given for everyone involved with the use of the AAC device"
"Thanks for allowing us to extend the loan of this device! That was a super easy process!"
"PATINS is a blessing to our students and staff."
"The district is buying LAMP WFL and getting him a separate iPad for it so he will have access 100% of the time."
"We will likely be purchasing a different device but this was an excellent shoe in the door for us. It let us compare/contrast with some other AAC options."
"I appreciate your availability and ease of use"
-and... drumroll please... provided 401 individual trainings/professional development (all virtually) for 2,542 educators in Indiana! If you haven't checked out the powerful training offerings by the PATINS Specialists lately, you should! Find them all here on our training calendar and here on our condensed Professional Development Guide!
Seeking Greater Flexibility & Gaining Balance: Sometimes, even though things are highly positive within our team, these unique circumstances demand that we have grace and patience with each other and respect for everyone's strengths and responsibilities. The members of this team fill-in for each other when unexpected things come up. We virtually high-five one another through our "It Matters to This One" internal recognition system, personal emails, Skype messages and informal Zooms! We have staff like Kelli Suding who sets up a virtual holiday exchange and gathering for us on a Friday over lunch! We aren't afraid to reach out when we are overwhelmed and need flexibility, understanding, or help! We realize that a balance must be maintained between work and re-energization and we respect guidelines for time as much as possible.
In all things, PATINS is more than work, we are a family and a team. We're a team that looks at anything that arrises, evolves, or that is thrown suddenly in our faces, and we say, "YES, we can do this IF...," rather than, "No, we can't because..."
I'm deeply proud of this team and the service and product we are able to provide. I encourage you to remember that our services are all at no cost to Indiana public schools and that we can and we will, work together with you to find a solution to your unique needs! ...every...single...time. Reach out to us!