Students who are unable to verbally communicate are being given the same learning opportunities as their peers thanks to an award-winning program designed by a Sunshine Coast teacher.
Nambour Special School (NSS) teacher Jenni Irving is a passionate advocate of ensuring every child has a voice, including those who aren’t able to communicate verbally.
Faced with the challenge of not being able to track the incremental learning progress of students with complex communication needs (CCN), Jenni created and developed a solution herself – the Emergent Literacy Assessment Tool (ELAT).
NSS deputy principal Adrienne Ford says Jenni was able to use her in-depth knowledge of students with individual learning needs and the unique ways that they demonstrate learning, to create the innovative tool.
“With no commercially available product, Jenni: researched, trialled, created a working party, trialled again, reached out to other school contexts, trialled again and refined, and ended up with the ELAT, (which is) now embedded in school processes,” Adrienne says.
“The impact has been that a group of students who previously had no diagnostic data on One School, and for whom there was no commercially available tool, can now have their data collated and recorded, resulting in enhanced learning outcomes,” she says.
“This same group of students can now have their learning outcomes moderated … and celebrated.”
“The ELAT continues to gain acknowledgement in other school settings, and one goal is to continue to promote this tool to other students through the Evidence Hub, Advisory Visiting Teachers, conferences, learning lounge presentations and workshops.”
The initiative also won the 2018 Showcase Award for Excellence in Inclusive Education in state schools. Next semester the ELAT will be used in a cross-sector moderation trial.
Adrienne says Jenni also makes learning fun and forms positive and respectful relationships with her students. And she is highly respected by her colleagues.
“Her in-class teaching practice is of a very high standard, specialising in teaching students with significant intellectual, physical and visual impairments with specialised health requirements,” Adrienne says.
“Jenni runs the Sing Sign Sway school choir, helping students express themselves through music and using her skills as an AUSLAN (Australian Sign Language) teacher to provide students unable to vocalise with an alternative way to ‘sing’.”
Jenni also runs professional development sessions for teachers, has weekly augmentative and alternative communication sessions, and shares her work through the Evidence Hub and teacher conferences.
Congratulations Jenni on your nomination.