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Joleene Spader, Shannon Colony upper grades teacher in the Howard district, answered the call when WIDA was looking for teachers to help develop new Alternate Can Do Descriptors. Joleene reached beyond our SD borders to give our knowledge and advocacy for small rural English Learner programs a wider stage. The goal of the workshop was to begin the process of developing descriptors of students with significant cognitive disabilities. Divided into grade-level groups, participants were assigned receptive or expressive language. Joleene shares,

“The knowledge and experience the other educators brought to the table was truly amazing. Guest speaker, Sheri Wells-Jensen- Associate Professor at Bowling Green State University in Ohio, discussed the frustrations that many blind or visually impaired individuals encounter.”

These experiences of others help us think outside the box for our students, as well. Joleene also shared, “It is our opportunity, as educators, to find opportunities for the students to learn each and every day. So often, it is easy to want to place the blame for students not learning onto others or other factors we can’t control.

“Don’t blame the students for not academically improving, look first at the instructor and the instructional practices you are using,” said Sherri Wells-Jensen.

Desiree Glanzer, Huron School District, and Joleene Spader, Shannon Colony in the Howard District represented South Dakota at the recent WIDA Alternative Can Dos Workgroup in Florida.