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UDL in 15 Minutes with George Van Horn

Partnering is the way to go

This blog is associated with the first podcast in a series about Bartholomew Consolidated School Corporation (BCSC) in Columbus, Indiana. While a big part of their story is the fact that they have been implementing UDL for about 20 years now, they have made significant strides in how to effectively, honestly, and thoughtfully include students with significant disabilities in the general education setting. To get us started on that conversation, though, I wanted to interview George. He is the Director of Special Education for BCSC, a tremendous advocate, and knows how to point funding to benefit all learners.

While the interview focuses on the steps BCSC has taken over their years, George and I landed on a critical piece of that conversation – partnerships. George and others at BCSC have partnered with CAST, the UDL-IRN, and other researchers over the years. As George states, “it’s not a journey you want to take by yourself. You don’t want to be the guy in the row boat out in the middle of the ocean hoping things work out.” But how do you begin those partnerships? How do you connect?

Let’s start with research. CAST makes this easy. On their website, you’ll see a tab at the top labeled, “Get involved.” That dropdown menu includes “Research opportunities.” When you click on that, you will go to a page that lists what it means to partner with CAST, their current projects and how you can help, the benefits to learners and educators, and a chance for you to share your ideas.

The UDL-IRN (the Implementation and Research Network) is a great place to make connections and see what research is going on. You can sign up for their weekly newsletter which shares what’s going on in the UDL community. The conference is a great place to make connections and easily start up those conversations. Like George said, “the great thing about the UDL community is that we all help each other and we’re all willing to work.”

If you’re looking for advice or examples, you’ve come to the right place! Every contact information isn’t included with the podcast, you can also contact me and I’ll put you in touch with them. If you go to my Table of Episodes and scroll to the bottom, you’ll find interviews with principals, directors of pupil services, and superintendents as well as leaders in the field who support schools. Who knows? You might find your UDL mentor in their crowd!

Going back to George’s comment about the row boat scenario, it’s true. You don’t want to be alone on this journey. In her interview Laura Christie talked about “finding her people” when she learned about UDL and found others who are passionate about it because she was the load UDL person in her school.

I encourage you to find those people in your UDL-world. Connect. Have challenging conversations. Share your bumps and bruises along with your hopes and happy thoughts. Helping our learners become expert learners isn’t always easy, but it’s always life affirming – for everyone involved!!