In my 45 year career in education, I loved my time as a general education and special education teacher and teacher consultant, primarily in Berrien Springs, Michigan, which led to 27 years as the Coordinator for the Berrien County Hearing Impaired Program and 17 as the district’s Coordinator for Special Education. My work was fueled by a strong commitment to develop maximal skills for success. When I became the district’s Curriculum, Assessment and Instruction Coordinator, the No Child Left Behind law had recently passed, throwing everyone into a frenzy over high stakes testing and the ramifications. I worked with an amazing administrative-teacher team to prevent a drill-and-kill focus meant to raise test scores. Instead, we determined to individualize brick-and-mortar education and expand options to meet the needs and passions of all students. Using standards as anchors, we developed options including:
- A Virtual Academy for on-and-off-campus students, both full-time and blended, using a seat-time waiver. This program serves many high functioning students, seeking an accelerated experience, with embedded projects.
- A statewide virtual program for alternative education students with individualized, strong mentor support, special education options, and on-the-job options.
- Expansion of unlimited dual-enrollment opportunities at a variety of 2 and 4-year schools, with options for early and late graduation. Some students have been able to graduate with two years of college financed by their public school system.
- Development of community-based, independent learning opportunities, allowing students to delve deeply into individual passions and internships.
- A program based on discovery, exploration, and inquiry for traditional students, which included project-based learning, standards-based grading and reporting, and acceleration and intervention opportunities.
My education includes a BA from Andrews University, certification for deaf education from Grand Valley State University and an MA from Michigan State University. As a forever learner, I have participated in and created many in-depth professional learning opportunities and professional learning communities to get ideas off the table and through the continuous cycle of planning, implementation, evaluation and revision.
– Jan Bermingham