Educator Feature: An Interview with Nathan Johnson
Educator: Nathan Johnson
Branch County ISD
Alt+Shift: Which Alt+Shift Trainings have you participated in?
Nathan Johnson: Foundations of Communication
AS: In what ways have you implemented ideas and information from the training?
NJ: We are in the beginning stages of implementing core vocabulary as a tier one support throughout our center-based building. We have developed an implementation team with specific goals and are creating resources to be in every classroom and throughout other areas of the school.
AS: What impact has the training had on you and those you work with?
NJ: The training had an immediate impact on several staff members as was evident through post-training discussions. Presuming competence was an eye-opening topic that has changed the mindset of several staff members. In the weeks following the training, I observed two of our students with complex communication needs progress at a greater rate as a direct result of the adults in their lives maintaining greater expectations for them.
AS: Describe one implementation challenge and how you overcame it, or are working to overcome it.
NJ: With a limited amount of time remaining in the current school year, we were unable to find time to provide a day of training to all of our staff. We faced two problems. One, we did not have any professional development days left in the schedule. Two, we struggled to find a date that worked for both us and Alt+Shift. With the help of Jared Koski, we creatively developed a way to deliver the training without much disruption to a regularly scheduled school day. We decided to attempt a virtual training. This came together very nicely, allowing us to have an experience that felt "real." A part of the success was a result of us creating three identical two-hour sessions. We arranged for a group of rotating subs that allowed teachers, paraprofessionals, and other staff members to attend one of the two-hour virtual training sessions during the day. This innovative concept allowed us to move ahead with the training without having to wait until the following school year. The virtual training was a great success, and I recommend it to others.
AS: Describe one implementation success or highlight.
NJ: One success from the Foundations of Communication training has been the overall "buy-in" of our staff. I believe this is crucial when implementing any new initiative. The presentation had key elements such as presumption of competence that were instrumental in helping our staff see the importance of giving all students a voice. I am thankful for the work Alt+Shift is doing in the area of communication, and their passion is highly contagious. Another highlight worth mentioning is the recent outpouring of support from our health center in town. One of the attendees in our recent training was a contracted physical therapist from the health center. She was very impressed by the training and shared this with her staff. The next day she brought in supplies donated from the health center that we can use in creating resources for our students and staff. We are very appreciative of this support.
AS: What is your next step for implementing ideas from the training?
NJ: Our next step in the implementation process is to create an Augmentative and Alternative Communication team that will meet monthly to monitor progress, discuss successes and failures, and to provide support to those who may need it. We will also continue to develop resources for our students and staff over the remainder of this school year so that we are ready to be fully functioning come August.