Key Conference to Feature Presentations on Special Education

The Key Conference, an event designed for educators who teach children with special needs and disabilities, will be held Thursday and Friday, May 3-4, on the campus of Western Carolina University.

Hosted by WCU’s department of human services, the conference is named in honor of Adelaide Daniels Key, chair of the WCU board of trustees and benefactor of the university’s Adelaide Worth Daniels Professorship in Special Education.

The conference will provide up-to-date information for professionals in general and special education about the most effective, research-based practices for teaching students with special needs and disabilities in public schools, said David Westling, who currently holds the professorship at WCU.

Themes to be addressed include inclusion of students with disabilities, effective teaching practices, the use of positive behavioral supports to improve behavior problems, and building communities within schools.

The conference will feature four speakers of national prominence, as well as local educators who have developed and implemented effective instructional programs.

Featured speakers include:

  • Michael L. Hardman, professor of special education and associate dean for research in the Graduate School of Education at the University of Utah. Hardman’s work and research include areas in curriculum development in mental retardation, severe disabilities, public policy issues in special education, vocational rehabilitation, bio-ethics, classroom management, research and evaluation in education, and secondary and transition programs. The focus of his presentation at WCU will be the inclusion of students with disabilities in general education.

  • Robert H. Horner, professor of education, head of the department of special education, and director of the Specialized Training Program at the University of Oregon. Horner has a 20-year professional history of direct service, research, program development and training in the field of disabilities. For the past six years, he has served as project director for the Rehabilitation Research and Training Center on Positive Behavioral Support, a six-university collaboration that has played a leading role in research, training, and dissemination on positive behavioral supports. The focus of his presentation at WCU will be positive behavior supports and effective school-wide discipline practices.

  • Russell Gersten, professor in the department of educational leadership, technology and administration at the University of Oregon, and director of the Eugene Research Institute. Gersten has written more than 100 articles on instructional issues, bilingual education and professional development, and has shown particular interest in innovation and change, professional development, strategies for translating research into practice, effective instruction for language-minority students with disabilities, reading comprehension, curriculum design and disability policy. He will be addressing effective instructional practices for students with disabilities at the Key Conference.

  • George Wood, a nationally recognized author, is founding director of the Wildwood Secondary School, serves on the executive board of the Coalition of Essential Schools, and is a founding member of the Institute for Democracy in Education. He also has served as a principal in Stewart, Ohio, where he put in place interdisciplinary curriculum, advisory and internship programs, and graduation portfolios that are now used at the Wildwood Secondary School. He will be delivering the Ainsley Lecture, focusing on building school communities that work.

Hardman and Gersten will speak on May 3, while Horner and Wood will give presentations on May 4. A dinner on May 3 will feature Gurney Chambers, former dean of WCU’s College of Education and Allied Professions, as guest speaker.

Although the conference is targeted towards educators who work with students with disabilities and special needs, those planning the event say they hope individuals in administrative and policy-making positions also will attend the event, which will have a limited seating capacity, Westling said.

Registration for both days of the conference is $50. Public school teachers may register for $40 for both days, or $25 for one day. The cost of the dinner is an additional $15.

For additional information, or to register, contact Bobby Hensley of WCU’s Division of Continuing Education and Summer School at (828) 227-7397. Registration deadline is April 20.