WINONA LAKE — Twenty-two students from the Grace College School of Education attended and helped to host the Council for Exceptional Children national convention in Indianapolis Jan. 29 to Feb. 2.
The CEC is a professional association of educators that serve students with exceptionalities through advocacy, professional development and training for its members. This year’s convention and expo featured more than 400 sessions, workshops and learning labs from educators and experts in the field.
“Attending the CEC national convention was an amazing opportunity for our students to network with over 4,500 other educators and hear from internationally recognized speakers,” said Dr. Cheryl Bremer, chair of the Special Education Department at Grace College. “I was proud of our students’ desire to learn throughout the week as well as their willingness to volunteer as hosts at the registration booth.”
The Grace CEC Chapter accompanied Mason Metzger, a 2017 Warsaw Community High School graduate, to the Yes I Can Awards at the convention. The awards recognize achievements of students with exceptionalities in six categories: academics, arts, school and community activities, self-advocacy, technology and transition. Metzger, who has spastic cerebral palsy and is well-known for inspirational speaking, was nominated for and won the 2019 Yes I Can Award for self-advocacy.
Karyssa Davis, vice-president of the Grace College CEC Chapter, said the Yes I Can Award ceremony was the most memorable part of the conference.
“It was amazing to see students with special needs honored for their strengths and accomplishments,” said Davis. “We were all especially excited to see Mason win.”
Emily Barge, president of the Grace CEC Chapter, anticipated the professional development opportunities at the conference. Consistent with the research-based, best teaching practices she has learned in the classroom at Grace, Barge said the CEC conference offered “the best research in education, as well as time to network with teachers form around the world and come together as educators to encourage one another.”
Barge was particularly impacted by a workshop and screening by filmmaker Dan Habib, who spoke about the work that went into his documentary “Intelligent Lives.” The film shows how much people with intellectual disabilities can accomplish.
“As Grace College’s CEC Chapter president, one of my goals is to engage the community by helping them understand more about people with exceptionalities and get to know them as individuals,” said Barge. “Maybe a screening of this film would be the perfect opportunity to start that conversation.”