Apr 20, 2020

Building Bridges: Continuing the Tradition - Award Ceremony Buiding Bridges: Continuing the Tradition Award Ceremony

Congratulations to the recipients of the 2020 Grant Wood AEA Building Bridges Continuing the Tradition - Outstanding Educator Awards. 


The April 21 awards ceremony celebrated these outstanding educators during a Facebook Live presentation on the Grant Wood AEA Facebook page.

The presentation began with comments from Jim Stachowiak, Director of Assistive Technology, AccessibleNU, Northwestern University. Jim is a longtime friend of the Building Bridges Conference and scheduled to be this year's conference keynote speaker. Jim shared the importance of "Designing for the Edges" to create a universal design for learning that reduces barriers for all students.


Grant Wood AEA staff nominate a general or special education educator or building team for the Outstanding Educator Awards. The recipients promote access for all using accessible and assistive technology and augmentative communication.


District administrators surprised the award recipients during the presentation.


Join us as we celebrate these outstanding educators! Congratulations!


Building Bridges - Samantha BattersonSamantha Batterson, Preschool Special Education Teacher
Stewart Elementary, Washington Community School District

Samantha supports teachers and paraeducators by modeling, providing resources, and collaborating with them to support student generalization of alternate means of communication to the general education classroom. She ensures that each team provides students’ access to individualized Augmentative and Alternative Communication systems to use with both peers and adults.

Samantha finds creative ways to incorporate her students’ dedicated communication devices or picture symbol support systems across all of her instruction, including social skills, functional play, peer mediation, literacy activities, and academic concepts. Samantha is relentless in finding solutions to support each student!


Building Bridges - Sue Kos.jpgSue Kos, Speech-Language Pathologist
Grant Wood Area Education Agency

Sue Kos is a speech-language pathologist at Grant Wood AEA serving children in early childhood and Early Access. Sue works tirelessly to continue learning new practices in AT and AAC for kids ages birth-5.

Sue utilizes AAC light-tech, mid-tech, and high-tech options for children in the home. Sue implements switches and switch toys for those who require accessible play and communication. She works very closely with teams and families to implement these technologies in their home in functional and meaningful ways. Sue’s commitment leads to deep relationships with families to embed these technologies in their daily lives and routines.

Sue’s provision of these supports impacts families and teams across multiple districts, improving overall skills and access for our youngest learners. She shares and presents these evaluation and implementation strategies with her Early Access team members to support the use of AT and AAC in the home environment.


Lisa Murray, Special Education TeacherBldgBridges_LMurray.png
Tilford Elementary
Vinton-Shellsburg School District

Lisa thoughtfully considers her students' needs and the strategies and tools that should be used to support learning across curricular areas. Lisa's leadership skills are impressive as she guides paraprofessionals on the use of appropriate strategies as well as the importance of using students' AAC systems across daily routines.

Lisa's high expectations for students, paraeducators, and herself have resulted in amazing gains in communication for students. Lisa has led her team in learning and modeling of AAC systems across activities, communication partners, and settings. She has made core boards available at Tilford Elementary, and AAC systems are with students at all times. Lisa is thoughtful and collaborative. She has a desire to continue to learn best practices when it comes to communication support, and implements these practices with fidelity. 

Lisa is an advocate for her students and an amazing teacher and colleague.


Building Bridges - Chad ChurmChad Thurm, Special Education Teacher
Mary Welsh Elementary
Williamsburg Community School District

Chad works to ensure access to the core curriculum for his students. He has reviewed digital copies of the text provided by the publisher and removed the pieces that were "hang ups" for the text reading program. He organized the text for easy use by students and staff.

Chad encourages his educator colleagues to provide accessible formats to students who cannot independently access the core and checks in with them to identify concerns and barriers to their use. He is dedicated to ensuring access for students, and building skills in educators to consider these needs and offer more access options for all students.