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By Kwok-Sze Wong, Ed.D., Executive Director, American School Counselor Association (ASCA) 

Like most immigrants, my family came to America with very little except the hope for a better life and the determination to achieve it. My parents sacrificed tremendously to ensure their children wouldn’t need to make the same sacrifices. Because my father couldn’t speak English, he couldn’t take an upper management job like he had in China, so he had to take blue-collar jobs. My mother, who couldn’t speak English either, couldn’t work at all. My parents’ income never exceeded the poverty level during the 40 years they lived in America. ...

By Tom Ledcke, Special Education Teacher, Roosevelt High School in Seattle, Washington

The challenge of inclusion for students with disabilities has been an ongoing conversation in education. For students in my high school, inclusion has primarily meant physical inclusion only -- students with disabilities attended general education classes with typical peers. However, during lunch and after school they were usually alone and isolated from the usual social experiences that their typical peers enjoyed. My students practiced social fluency skills like eye contact and small talk in the classroom, but they never had the chance to put these skills into action by making true friendships. Participating in team sports or landing a part in the school play was only a dream. While I don't think it was ever out of malice or hatred, ignorance towards the students with intellectual disabilities ensured my students were left out of things and never integrated into the fabric of our school community -- and like any other student who feels isolated or alone, my students could feel that they were "outsiders." ...

By Libby Nealis, Consultant on Classroom Behavioral Management, NEA HIN

Continuing its commitment to preventing and reducing bullying in our nations’ schools, the National Education Association (NEA) offers a number of resources for educators to promote awareness of bullying behaviors among students and prevent bullying behavior. For example, NEA’s GPS Network includes a Student Bullying group that offers a forum for educators to express concerns and share resources and best practices. This month they featured two webinars

NEA HIN also provides resources on cyberbullying and the prevention and intervention services that can address both the causes and the effect of bullying. This includes positive behavioral supports and social and emotional learning (SEL) programs. These kinds of school-wide programs can also have a tremendous effect on bullying. Much can be achieved simply by teaching students compassion ...

By Otha Thornton, President, National PTA

Technology and the Internet have created countless new opportunities for learning. Students can now read about virtually any subject from anywhere and can connect with people and places around the world. Teachers are harnessing the power of the technology to bring curriculum alive and modify instruction to meet the unique needs of every child. Technology is essential for the development of 21st century skills that will help students thrive in their chosen careers.

Technology is everywhere. We text, tweet, shop, learn, play games, plan family vacations and even worship online. Some of us even use technology to track our 10,000 steps each day, like I did during this past summer’s National PTA convention.

Personally, I love technology. I use it extensively at my job. And on my many travels for National PTA, I often use my phone to arrange for transportation, confirm speaking engagements and stay in touch with our state and local units.

But with new gadgets, social media platforms and apps coming out every day, I, like most families, don’t have the time or tech savvy to stay on top of the latest fad.

That’s where good decision-making skills that apply to any digital environment are helpful. ...

October is National Principals Month, an annual opportunity to recognize the importance of school leaders and their role in supporting student learning, as evidenced by years of empirical research. Maximum levels of student learning are reached in optimal school conditions, many of which are the purview of school leaders. Strong leadership is an essential component in creating great public schools.

In an era where public schools are frequently under attack, recognizing outstanding leadership and the value of public school leaders is important as a way to remind the American public and policy makers that investing in human capacity is essential for building strong successful schools. Research indicates that leadership is second only to classroom teachers in terms of in-school factors impacting student learning, strong leadership is important for guiding sustainable school turnaround efforts and leadership matters even more for schools and communities facing challenging circumstances ...

Danielle Liebl, a former Special Olympics Project UNIFY National Youth Activation Committee Member from Minnesota, recently established her own non-profit - DIFFERbilities Experience. An extraordinary individual, Danielle has dedicated her life to make a difference for people with intellectual and cognitive disabilities.

The following blog post was written by Danielle for the DIFFERbilities Experience Blog and shared here with permission.

At the age of six years old, I can recall my mom and dad asking me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I always responded, “An orthopedic surgeon at Gillette.” You may be wondering how on earth does a six year old know what an orthopedic surgeon is? When you have cerebral palsy, not only do you see a lot of doctors, you also become very familiar with their titles. At the age of six, my primary doctor was an orthopedic surgeon and I thought he was the coolest! This dream of being an orthopedic surgeon lasted until sophomore year in high school, when biology class was required and I found out it is not my cup of tea. I believe my parents let out a huge sigh of relief when they realized there would be no lawsuits in the future. They always feared that I would have a spasm and accidentally put someone’s femur bone in their rib cage.

Although I realized that a career as a surgeon may not be for me, I still knew I wanted to help people with intellectual and cognitive disabilities. I decided instead of forcing myself to like biology, I should focus on something I was passionate. In high school I was very involved in Special Olympics. Through this tremendous organization, I was able to find my voice, my confidence and my passion. No longer was I the girl with cerebral palsy; instead, I was a respected human being ...

By Bethe Almeras, Assistant Executive Director, NEA-Health Information Network

Summer has come and gone as have all the Back-to-School ads on TV and essentially everywhere you look.

It’s back. We’re back. The time is now, and the new school year is in full-gear with no signs of letting up for quite a while. Deep breath.

OK then, let’s stop and take a moment to do a self-check-in. Yes us, the adults. Most of us get so focused on everyone else that we forget that taking care of ourselves is vital for providing a great school year for the students. Whether you work inside or outside the classroom or are a parent – or both! – you and your health and wellness are key ingredients for the school and student success recipe.

To that end, NEAHIN is challenging all of us to take the Healthy Me, Better Year Pledge! Yes, our staff is taking it too! It’s a simple pledge to say,

“Hey, I value myself and my health and happiness. I am going to do X, Y and/or Z to help ensure I am bringing my best self to the school community each day.” ...

By Kaitlyn Smith

Kaitlyn Smith served three years on the Project UNIFY National Youth Activation Committee and she is a current student at the University of Northern Colorado. Kaitlyn has been involved with Special Olympics for eight years and is an advocate for inclusion and acceptance for all.

On Thursday July 31st, my Special Olympics adventures took me to a new place: The White House.

 President Obama and the First Lady graciously offered to host a dinner in Celebration of the Special Olympics Unified Generation, and I was beyond honored and humbled to be invited to take part in the celebration. Throughout the evening I had the opportunity to speak with amazing individuals, such as President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama, Jordin Sparks, Jason Derulo, Michelle Kwan, Maria Shriver, constituents from ESPN and Coke, and the list goes on. We were served an immaculate meal, and the evening ended with an amazing private performance by Katy Perry. ...

By Thomas J. Gentzel, Executive Director, National School Boards Association (NSBA)

When did a politically driven view of school nutrition begin to overtake visible realities? Trays of uneaten cafeteria food thrown in the trash. Hungry kids. Struggling school food-service programs. Peel back the good intentions and the celebrity-fueled support of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, and you'll see the practical realities many school districts and students face. Legislation enacted without a practical understanding of its consequences truly fails America's public schoolchildren.

That's why the National School Boards Association (NSBA) is asking Congress and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to address the unintended consequences of the Act.

The real story of school districts trying to put nutrition regulation into practice has been drowned out by the political noise surrounding the issue. ...

We either pay by investing in capacity building to reduce out of school suspensions now, or we pay later as a society as students go from schools to prisons. This succinct assessment, offered by San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD) Superintendent Richard A. Carranza on a recent AASA webinar, highlights the importance of supporting school staff so they can meet students’ social emotional and behavioral needs while keeping them in a safe academic environment. Out of school suspensions (OSS) are a risk factor in predicting the likelihood that a student will drop out of school and of later involvement with the justice system, and these suspensions disproportionately affect minority students. To break the school to prison pipeline, district leaders need to develop and implement effective supports for students and staff alike. ...

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