The Dawson County Exceptional Children’s Community Based Instruction program has done remarkably well in its first two years, so much so that program leads Edith Banta and Ashley Elliott recently presented it to the state as a model program.
Banta, Elliott and Exceptional Children Director Hershel Bennett traveled down to St. Simon’s Island for the Institute Designed for Educating All Students, or IDEAS, Conference presented by the Georgia Department of Education last week to lead a presentation about the program’s success. The IDEAS conference provides professional learning environments via workshops, sessions and networking related to teaching students with disabilities.
The CBI program started up in the fall of 2016 at Dawson County High School and expanded to Dawson County Middle School this past year. Banta and Elliott have also announced expansion to Dawson County Junior High School and the in-school programs at the elementary level beginning this fall.
Banta and Elliott’s June 6 presentation focused on starting a successful CBI program in a rural area, which was met by wide praise in the packed room at the IDEAS conference.
"Some of the comments we got were like they were amazed that we did so much in just two years," Banta said. "One person came up and said 'so that's only been five years?' and we're like 'No, two.'"
It’s easy to understand why the crowd was impressed with the presentation.
Banta and Elliott went into detail to explain every aspect of their success. From sharing iMovies they've made over the school year to providing data from fundraising and sharing their curriculum and daily, weekly and monthly schedules, attendees had all the resources they needed to take back to their school systems.
"At the end of our presentation we had a resource page and that resource page had all the documents for them to use,” Elliott said. “We had an example of our syllabus, an example of our different data sheets to use on job sites, different work site evaluation forms that they use…the resource page was just really good for them because they could literally take back our resources and stuff and go back to their county and just kind of tweak whatever they wanted.”
The two agreed that they wanted to put all of the resources at their disposal online for other educators to take with them as they work to build their own CBI/CBVI programs.
“We want provide help for (others) and we should collaborate as educators,” Banta said.
Bennett spoke highly of his CBI team and was excited to see Banta and Elliott represent Dawson County at the state and hopes to see them return next year.
“Many directors and DOE employees praised their presentation and asked for more information to take back to their school system,” Bennett said. “One DOE employee was so inspired by the presentation they requested to come visit the program in person next school year.”
The CBI program in Dawson County had much to highlight at the conference. With 583 Exceptional Students in the county, 50 of those are in the current self-contained programs.
In its second year, the Unified Tigers coffee shop raised over $6,000 to put back into the program, and served over 50 cups of coffee a day most days, according to the data.
"I feel like our kids are very well equipped now. It's really exciting to see the changes...they're smiling more, they're interacting more in the school, they don't just sit in a room where they aren't seen or heard from," Banta said. “The enthusiasm still hasn't gone away. I still feel like we're making an impact as a department and it's really exciting."