DSEA Action!

May/June 2012

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Our amazing members Joan Robinson brings whole life and can-do attitude to students with disabilities - by Joel F. Glazier When Joan Robinson played the glockenspiel in the old Gunning Bedford High School Marching Band in the 1970's, she thought music would have a prominent place in her future. a love but I've been drawn to jobs that involve people," says Joan Robinson. Her first job was as a counselor at Grove Point (MD) Girl Scout camp. She has also held an array of jobs at area restaurants. "Actually the jobs found me and the variety of tasks I have had proves hard work never scared me," says Robinson. " M Joan Robinson is DSEA's ESP Person of the Year. Variety of work experi- ences helps prepare paras for multiple tasks Joan Robinson has been selected as DSEA's 2012 Education Support Person of the Year and she likes to think her cheerfulness and total dedication to helping others is why. "The Leach School staff is totally devoted to working as a team. The students, whose ages range from 3 to 21, are in need of such devoted services, but that is why we are there- for them- the students." Robinson has also been an organ player and choir director in the his- torical Christiana Presbyterian Church for 30 years. "Maybe they need younger blood but I am happy to continue my music and service there," says Robinson, now in her twelfth year as a full time parapro- fessional at Colonial's Leach usic is still School, a specialized school which serves students with physical and/or cognitive disabilities. After several jobs at area restau- rants and also at the Au Clair School (serving Autistic Children) near St. George's, Robinson had the opportunity to audition for a music therapy job at the Delaware State Hospital. "Times were different then…I successfully auditioned by playing the piano at home into the phone as the officials listened at the other end," she laughs. However, it was working with students that struck Robinson's passion when she began substituting at Colonial schools. "My first substitute job was for a music teacher at nearby Gunning Bedford Middle School. Joan Robinson works with students with severe disabilities helping them discover and build on what they can do. tance of a union. I believe all mem- bers must step up and become more involved. Don't wait until there is a dire situation to realize the impor- tance of the Association." Robinson has participated in several DSEA "Paras are not fluff in a school, especially in special needs classes. Some teachers could not make it through the day without us, and our Association can use our energy and leadership," says Robinson. There I was with music again, at my alma mater." When a position opened at the Leach School for a paraprofessional in 1997, Robinson got the job and has been there ever since. "A newly- hired teacher and I were both ori- ented by veteran paraprofessional Shirley Redmond. Shirley eventual- ly became president of our para local." In addition to her position at Leach, Robinson currently serves as secretary of the 80-member Colonial Paraprofessional Association. "I was 'excessed' in my fourth year due to seniority list confusion concerning unique alternative paraprofessionals (i.e., one-on-one). I turned for help to the leadership of CPA. I got my job back and have learned to appreciate the impor- 16 May/June 2012 DSEA ACTION! Summer Leadership Trainings, Association committees and has spent time in Dover lobbying legis- lators. Testing frustration: hands- on activities needed Robinson has organized Alex's Lemonade Stand as an American Cancer Society fund raiser at Leach and has gotten students involved with the Shoes to Share program. She thrives on helping students with the array of adaptive devices at school, and she quickly points out what she observes as unfairness of the State Testing Program for the students at Leach. "Hands-on activities are needed. A computer test is not for all stu- dents. Our students cannot be pigeonholed. The six students with whom I work one-on-one may be on the same chapter in their learning but not on the same page. If a stu- dent needs repetition and 2,000 tri- als to learn a skill, well, we're there to let them have the 2,000 trials or even 2,001 if that is what's needed. All students cannot be successful on a one-time test. The State Testing Program often sets up our students for failure." "Focus on what our stu- dents can do, not on what they can't do" Robinson has appreciated past involvement at Leach from Foster Grandparents volunteers. She stresses, "It's too bad visiting legis- lators just come by to say hello and do not really get to see what we do with our students. If they rolled up their sleeves and spent an hour, they would see the need for more therapists and also committed vol- unteers in schools." Most impor- tantly she wants, "Legislators and others to not just focus on what our students cannot do. I want people to see the abilities of our students and what they can do." Joel Glazier, DSEA-Retired, is a fre- quent contributor to ACTION! He can be reached at jglazie@aol. com. www.dsea.org

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