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New task force focuses on special education

A new 20-member Special Education Task Force has been formed to provide special education resources and support to teachers and students.

“Our goal is to lay out a common, reliable, and researched path for identifying and supporting learners who struggle in academics and behavior,” says Ms. Kelli Green, a special education professor at Martin Luther College (MLC). “How do we support these children as well as provide school leaders and teachers with the support systems they need to offer this assistance?”

The task force will be researching the special education services already happening in WELS schools as well as the needs. It will also be exploring how to educate current students as well as administrators and teachers already in WELS schools about the resources available to help those with special needs, including ways to collaborate with one another and with public schools.

“We’re looking at how we can provide more support to our schools so more kids can hear the gospel at our schools on a daily basis,” says Mr. James Rademan, director of the Commission on Lutheran Schools.

The group includes representatives from the Commission on Lutheran Schools, MLC, Wisconsin Lutheran College, the Evangelical Lutheran Synod, Bethany Lutheran College, Jesus Cares Ministries, and Christian Educators for Special Education, along with special education teachers from WELS area Lutheran high schools and Lutheran elementary schools.

Currently MLC offers two special education programs. Undergraduates can receive an Academic and Behavioral Specialist (ABS) Minnesota state teaching licensure, and graduates can return to pursue a master of science in education with a special education emphasis. Seventeen students are in the undergraduate program, and 12 are in the master’s program. MLC is working on adding a master of special education in learning disabilities.

Wisconsin Lutheran College, Milwaukee, Wis., offers special education undergraduate and master’s degree majors resulting in cross-categorical special education licensure. Bethany Lutheran College, Mankato, Minn., also offers an ABS undergraduate major as well as a post-baccalaureate program for ABS licensure.

For more information about the task force, contact James Rademan, director of WELS Lutheran Schools, at jim.rademan@wels.net.

First WELS EdTechLead conference to be held

The 2019 WELS Education, Technology, and Leadership Summit (WELS EdTechLead) will be held June 25–27 at the Kalahari Resort in Wisconsin Dells, Wis.

This new event combines the National School Leadership and the WELSTech conferences into one expanded convention. It offers information and fellowship to those interested in exploring ministry tools, techniques, and best practices in the areas of education, technology, and leadership.

Created to be more sensitive to the time and funds of those who may have been interested in attending both conferences, WELS EdTechLead also aims to draw a broader audience than either conference might be able to alone.

“I think the conference really is for almost anybody in ministry,” said Mr. Martin Spriggs, WELS chief technology officer. “It’s an opportunity to help everyone put a bit more brainpower and a bit more passion into their efforts. It just makes sense to share that knowledge and energy and come up with better ministry plans and strategies together.”

The speakers and sessions offered at WELS EdTechLead are not simply related to one of the three topics of education, technology, and leadership. Many demonstrate the intersections between the topics. For example, teachers will be able to learn about instructional technology at the conference, and school principals and early childhood directors will have opportunities to develop their leadership skills.

The schedule is organized to allow attendees to experience a variety of workshops from each of the three fields. Half-day and full-day preconference sessions are also available to allow visitors to dive deeply into a specific subject.

“It’s to strengthen the network of support we have with one another in ministry,” said Mr. Jim Rademan, director of the Commission on Lutheran Schools. “You are going to learn some tips and some tools, but, in many ways, this conference is to inspire you to move forward in your ministry.”

Registration for WELS EdTechLead is now open, with early bird discounts through May 1. Visit welsedtechlead.com to learn more and register.

WELS teachers meet around the country

Annual District Teachers’ Conferences are an opportunity for WELS early childhood teachers and directors, Lutheran elementary school teachers, and high school teachers to enjoy learning opportunities, networking, and fellowship. Three conferences have already taken place. Conferences will continue this week in the Pacific Northwest, South Atlantic, and Minnesota Districts, Oct. 18-20.

The Michigan District Teachers’ Conference was held Oct. 4-6 at Trinity in Bay City, Mich. Psalm 46 was the focus of both the opening worship and the Bible study for all attendees. Prof. Paul Koelpin from Martin Luther College, New Ulm, Minn., addressed the conference with a presentation on “The Blessings and Challenges of Teaching ‘Lutheran’ in the 21st Century.” Rev. Brian Keller presented a paper on the Evangelical Heritage Version Bible, the translation being worked on through the Wartburg Project. Conference attendees had an opportunity to attend a number of sectionals on topics that included early childhood ministry, technology, leadership, science, and others.

The South Central District met at Calvary Lutheran School in Dallas, Tex. Oct. 5-6. Several of the South Central District schools had students who were victims of Hurricane Harvey. With that in mind, Anita Smith, from Christian Family Solutions, presented a workshop called “Supporting Students Dealing with Trauma.”

The Nebraska and Dakota-Montana District Teachers’ Conference met at St. Paul’s, Rapid City, S.D., Oct. 8-10. They met under the theme “A Reformation of the Heart.” Devotions for the conference focused attendees on grace alone, faith alone, Scripture alone, and Christ alone. The religious keynote presented by Rev. Nathaniel Biebert was entitled, “Your Baby Boy and His Names: Martin Luther on Isaiah 9:6.” The educational keynote was presented by Todd Whitaker and was based on one of his books “What Great Teachers Do Differently.” Sectional topics ranged from special education, accreditation, Google classroom, music, supervision of instruction, disruptive behaviors, burnout prevention, language arts, New Teacher Induction, and conflict resolution.

The Commission on Lutheran Schools associate director, Mr. Tom Plitzuweit, says, “District teacher conferences serve as a great avenue for teachers to continue learning and developing professionally and spiritually. At conferences, teachers connect with other teachers. They learn from each other’s experiences and share ideas. What is special about our WELS conferences is that they give us more opportunities to learn with and learn from our brothers and sisters in Christ, many of whom share similar ministry experiences. It is a blessing to lift each other up and grow spiritually and professionally. Not only does attending conferences benefit us as teachers, but it is also a tremendous blessing to our schools and to all the precious souls we have the privilege of serving.”

 

 

 

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Cultivating future school leaders

Participants in the Commission on Lutheran Schools’ (CLS) Apprenticeship Mentoring and Principal program met at the WELS Center for Mission and Ministry, Waukesha, Wis., June 20-22, to expand and hone their school leadership skills and repertoire.

About two dozen WELS educators attended between the principal and director apprentices and the leadership candidates. The apprentices are teachers who graduated from the WELS college of ministry, Martin Luther College (MLC) in New Ulm, Minn., within the last two years. As apprentices, they are getting additional training and mentoring having been assigned by the Assignment Committee as principals and early childhood directors. The leadership candidates are more seasoned teachers who have demonstrated the gifts for school leadership positions and participate in the leadership program to prepare for future principal roles.

The attendees participated in a module on school culture and climate presented by Cindi Holman, WELS Early Childhood Ministry national coordinator, and her husband, Mr. Jim Holman, director of Education at Wisconsin Lutheran College.

Mr. James Otto, a principal apprentice serving at St. Matthew, Stoddard, Wis., says the value of attending the training extends beyond what they learn in sessions. He says, “The primary reason for being here isn’t just to learn but to connect with the other principal and director apprentices.”

The leadership candidates went through a book study on growth mindset and fixed mindset and how to continue developing their leadership gifts, along with the practical aspects of becoming a principal by getting credentials from MLC.

Mrs. Linda Baumann, a third and fourth grade teacher at Trinity, Jenera, Ohio, has been teaching for 22 years and serves as a mentor to teachers new in the field. She says, “It is valuable to go through the process of ministry development planning to help teachers of all levels of experience improve their instruction for the benefit of the students they serve.”

CLS Associate Director Mr. Tom Plitzuweit says the program started to help meet the need for WELS principals in the schools. “There are people out there who have the gifts, and sometimes they need a little bit of encouragement to get into the principalship, and we know that strong schools need strong leaders. The challenge is finding these individuals and encouraging them to use their gifts for positions of leadership in their schools,” he says. CLS Director Mr. Jim Rademan will address the synod in convention this August on the critical need for well-trained school leaders.

In addition to leadership training, CLS also has an active and nationally recognized accreditation process called WELSSA. In June, Plitzuweit was elected as the vice president of the National Council for Private School Accreditation (NCPSA). This is a two-year term, which will be followed by a two-year term serving as president of NCPSA. As part of the NCPSA, any WELS school accredited through WELSSA can receive state, regional, and national accreditation as an educational institution.

 

 

 

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