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Cotopaxi Celebrates Journeys Toward Inclusion

By Jackie Wyncoll
Cotopaxi Celebrates  Journeys Toward Inclusion

Gabriela Espinosa, an artist and designer with cerebral palsy, kicked off the event alongside Karina Marin, mother of a 7th-grade student with learning needs (photo: Academia Cotopaxi). _________________________________________________________________________ After much planning, preparation, and anticipation, our 2017 Journeys Toward Inclusion Conference arrived under a blue sky Friday afternoon, in beautiful Quito. The event kicked off as over 200 participants listened, enraptured, to heartwarming and inspiring personal stories of inclusion presented by Gabriela Espinosa, who is an artist and designer with cerebral palsy, and Karina Marin, mother of a 7th-grade student with learning needs. A hard act to follow, 20 of Academia Cotopaxi’s teachers teamed up to share their own learning, skills, and knowledge on the subject of “inclusive practices.” Their workshops included topics such as project-based learning, family partnerships, sensory supports, encouraging self-advocacy in students, mindfulness in the classroom, autism, student-led enterprises, language learning vs. language disorders, personalizing learning, technology that supports learning, self-regulation, as well as an opportunity to hear our own story of bringing inclusion to Academia Cotopaxi. Classrooms were packed, participants engaged, and the learning palpable. The day closed with stories of inclusion, this time presented by one of Academia Cotopaxi’s elementary teachers, and also by one of Academia Cotopaxi’s very own—a 12th-grade student with autism. His presentation demonstrated a clear understanding of who he is, his love for school and friends, and his hopes for the future. The message for the day was clear: “May our Journeys Towards Inclusion be filled with empathy, generosity, and passion. Let us be a light of hope in the lives of others.” Saturday followed, featuring a presentation by Kristen Pelletier, an international educational consultant with the goal of supporting international schools along their journey toward exemplary inclusive cultures and practices. The focus of the day was personalizing learning through differentiated instruction. Teachers were able to fill their “toolboxes” with strategies for supporting different learning styles and needs, for setting up an inclusive classroom, for understanding and supporting behaviors, and for differentiated lesson planning. The day was filled with opportunities for personal reflection, collaboration, questioning, sharing… even dancing! When a group of educators gets together, so much learning takes place. With a satisfied sigh, we closed the event on Saturday afternoon feeling so inspired by the excitement and professional commitment that exists as we strive collectively to improve opportunities for all children to learn in inclusive settings. Academia Cotopaxi currently serves close to 100 students through our Learning Support Program, within an inclusive framework. Although still early in the process of building our program, it has been a remarkable journey, and we are proud of what we have accomplished thus far. We are very excited about a future that we believe is possible in serving students who learn in different ways within our schools. Jackie Wyncoll is Learning Support Coordinator at Academia Cotopaxi Learning Support Department.>

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09/26/2018 - Irina
Thanks for telling about such a great event. I think it's very important nowadays, especially for children and students with disabilities. By the way, my company, Logicify, is in EdTech, and our debut in this ecosystem was in building an online platform for inclusive education. You can check it out here if you are interested.
04/20/2018 - Jim Laney
A very heartwarming story, Jackie. Do you have a guidelines document or a brochure you could share with me that describes your program for potential families or teachers? We are beginning our own journey here at AES and we want to learn from other good schools as we move forward.

Thanks, Jim Laney, Director, AES Delhi. [email protected]



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