Capstone Portfolio

Introduction: Context - Part 1

I am Jennifer Wasson and I have been an educator for more than 21 years. My tenure has occurred at the Montana School for the Deaf and the Blind (MSDB) in Great Falls, MT, of which I have been an employee for 24 years. During this time I have been a cottage life attendant in the dorm for deaf and hard of hearing girls, a teacher of the deaf (TOD), an outreach consultant for the deaf and hard of hearing, the driver's education teacher, the director of our performing group Expressions of Silence, and the head coach of our Deaf Academic Bowl team. I hold a Bachelor's in Elementary and Special Education, a Master's degree in Deaf Education, as well as an endorsement in Traffic Education. I have taught students in 2nd grade through post high school, but I am currently teaching math to middle and high school Deaf, hard of hearing, and visually impaired students at MSDB. I also teach sign language classes to 9th- 12th graders in the mainstream setting at both public high schools in Great Falls, MT. This sign language class is also a dual credit class through Great Falls College- MSU.

MSDB is a special education program which serves students from 18 months to 21 years old. Each student we serve either has an IEP or a 504. In addition to teaching, I have also worked as a consultant in our Outreach program which has allowed me to work in the public schools and in the homes with children from birth to 22 years of age. While a majority of my students have been Deaf or hard of hearing, I have also worked with students who have visual impairments, or who are deafblind. A trend at MSDB, which is becoming more common within our school and also in public schools is dually placing students. This means deaf students can be in visually impaired classrooms and blind students can be placed in deaf classrooms. As a school which specializes in sensory impairments, it is our responsibility to work with schools across the state to ensure students’ accommodations are being met and provide assistance in making materials and the school environment accessible for our students. MSDB currently serves approximately 50 students on campus. We also provide services through our Outreach program to more than 300 deaf or blind children across the entire state. We work with their families and with their home school districts. Support services include instruction to use assistive technology, ASL/sign language classes, information regarding amplification, as well as resources on how and where to obtain the technology devices. MSDB serves a very low incidence population, but one that requires very high needs.

I have been involved with Montana's teacher union for more than half of my life. I have been a member of MEA, then when it merged as MEA-MFT, and now as MFPE. As a student member I was instrumental in starting student programs at numerous universities across our state. Then as a teacher I have served as either the secretary, or the treasurer, throughout my 21 years. At the national level, I have been a member of AFT's Women's Rights Committee for the past 5 years, and most recently, a member of NEA's Educator's Voice Academy. I enjoy serving my local and participating at different levels of the association. I have been involved with labor management, solution based problem solving, negotiating our CBA, and assisting with local community service projects. I have worked with three different field representatives during this time and have increased my knowledge base about our union each time. MFPE puts its members first and I couldn't do my job without this forward thinking association.

Context - Part II (4 questions): Connecting Self-Assessment to Your Context

How does awareness of your own biases, experiences of privilege, and personal values inform your chosen instructional project?

Knowing my own biases helps me understand how I relate to others, which does affect my teaching and how I interact with members in our local. If I can't remain objective, or neutral in a situation, I need to ask myself why. People come from a variety of backgrounds, and it’s possible that because someone’s culture or identity may be different than mine, I could have a bias I wasn’t even aware of. I need to make sure these biases don’t influence how I treat my students and the people I work with. It will be important to keep this in mind during my TLI journey. Regardless if I am working with my coach, colleagues, or other TLI fellows, I need to give myself regular checks. It would also be beneficial to have others review my work frequently to make sure I have an awareness towards my growth and understanding of my skills.

At the beginning of the TLI program, at which level (emerging, developing, performing, or transforming) in the progressions did you place yourself for each of your four chosen competencies? Provide a rationale for each claim.

When I started the TLI program I initially was looking at Communication and Technological Facility as the two Overarching Competencies I would choose and I had those competencies in mind when completing my Module 2 Needs Assessment. However, during my journey, I realized I needed to go a different direction. I originally thought the communication competency, in regards to my project, meant how the stakeholders are using their modes of communication effectively in the classroom and with each other. This includes access to braille and American Sign Language. I now understand that the Communication Competency is how we communicate with others to effect change, influence and persuade. The Technological Facility is so important in teaching. I do use a variety of assistive technology in the classroom, especially now since COVID 19 has required us to have virtual classrooms.

Overarching Competency #1: Group Processes-Developing (Evidence A)

My capstone project requires me to work with groups of teachers and specialists to come together and collaborate to meet the needs of our diverse population of students. This will require mentoring and mediating group conflicts. Not everyone believes combing deaf and blind students is appropriate. In fact, in the past 5 years, there has even been in-fighting in the deaf department because there are strong opinions about which mode of communication should be used when teaching the deaf. There is also a belief that there is not a culture associated with blindness and never ever should you mix students with visual impairments with deaf and hard of hearing students. I have navigated these difficult situations in the past and my own personal belief and understanding as an educator of the deaf is to meet the family and student where they are and give them all available tools to succeed. I have presented at a variety of conferences and workshops. I have been involved in numerous conflict resolution meetings and mediated group conflicts while keeping in mind the different backgrounds and cultures present in the group.. I need to work on empowering others, as well as myself at times, and how to design and implement new learning opportunities

Overarching Competency #2: Adult Learning- Developing (Evidence A)

There are 2 education departments at MSDB, one for the deaf and one for the blind. There have been a few opportunities to collaborate as a whole, but when there is PIR training we are divided into specific departments. My capstone project focuses on bringing our diverse needs together to positively impact adult learning and to teach each other our unique skill sets when working with our sensory impaired students. By doing so, we will meet the needs of students when they are in mixed classrooms.

Foundational Competencies: Diversity, Equity, and Cultural Competence- Cultivate Socially Just Learning Environment- Emerging (Evidence A)

The MSDB campus is located in Great Falls,MT and serves a variety of cultures and backgrounds on and off our campus from all over Montana. We have a residential program on our campus, so many of the students we serve will live on our campus during the school year. We provide services to families with children who are deaf, hard of hearing, blind or low vision. This includes families from Montana's seven Indian reservations and twelve tribes, families from the Hutterite Colonies across Montana, military families from Malmstrom Air Force Base in Great Falls, as well as the Deaf and the blind students from across the state . The Deaf have their own culture and community and we proudly work with them. I have an awareness of the cultural diversity of these groups, but as we work together to create and implement new program models to educate our students, we will need to support the different cultures to cultivate socially just learning environments to change past practices and bring groups together.

Instructional Leadership Competency: Facilitating Collaborative Relationships- Emerging (Evidence A)

For my capstone project, i want to continue to improve and expand our mixed classrooms. I am already working with teachers who are themselves Deaf or blind. I am working and learning from teachers who specialize in the education of students with visual impairments, but I want this to become the norm for everyone at our school. I want us to put aside our differences so we can meet the diverse needs and cultures of the kids we serve.

Artifact for Certification & Context-Evidence A

Jen Wasson TLI Approval Form 2020.pdf

Artifact for Certification

As detailed in the document to the left, I am including my "Coaches Capstone Approval Form and Certification Bank Code" file as my first artifact in this project. All other artifacts throughout this project will be referred to as 'evidence'.

Evidence A

Images of the Overarching, Foundational, and Instructional Competencies I chose when evaluating myself at the beginning of my TLI journey on October 26, 2019. The check marks and circles indicate where I identified at the beginning of TLI and the stars indicate my leadership goals.