ISSUED: 4 June 2015
MEDIA CONTACT: Valerie Owens
SHEPHERDSTOWN, WV — A Shepherd University professor has been accepted into the Council for Learning Disabilities Leadership Academy. Dr. Belinda Mitchell, assistant professor of education, is one of six professionals nationally who were chosen to participate in the program.
The Council for Learning Disabilities is an international organization for special education professionals. Each year the organization chooses up to six leadership academy participants who are “emerging leaders who demonstrate potential and a passion for leadership in service of students with learning disabilities as well as all other learners who struggle academically.”
Mitchell, who has taught at Shepherd since 2011, is excited about being chosen.
“It gives me the opportunity to collaborate with others throughout the nation,” she said. “It really helps me have a big reach and learn from others about what else is out there.”
Mitchell will kick off her year in the academy when she attends the 37th Annual Conference on Learning Disabilities Oct. 1-2 in Las Vegas, Nevada. That’s when she will meet a mentor who will be assigned to work with her throughout the coming year. Mitchell said the mentor will be a senior researcher and well-known professional in the field.
Mentors work with academy participants to help plan the research and writing projects. They are assigned based on areas of interest, which for Mitchell include learning disabilities, universal design for learning, and response to intervention.
“That’s going to be really exciting for me to meet my mentor and start a whole year of more research and writing,” she said.
Mitchell explained that universal design for learning covers designing curriculum and assessments so they reach every student in the classroom, not just the kids who are gifted and talented or who are struggling.
“We design the curriculum so that every student can be reached,” she said.
In West Virginia, response to intervention is called support for personalized learning, and it is the process used in the classroom to identify students with learning disabilities.
“So instead of just waiting for these students to fail, response to intervention means anytime we see a problem with a student we ask what we can do to help,” she said. “Then we try that, and if that doesn’t work we come back to the drawing board. If nothing works we refer the student for testing and evaluation. So it helps to really catch the kids who are struggling.”
Mitchell, who teaches special education classes for both undergraduate and graduate students, hopes to conduct action research with teachers in surrounding counties during her year in the academy. She also expects to gain information she can share with her Shepherd students about what is happening nationally with learning disability education.
“There’s always a need to be met because everybody learns so differently,” Mitchell said. “I know we label some kids with disabilities, but really everyone has something different and as teachers we need to be able to teach to the differences.”
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