Teacher to take up Fulbright scholarship
When Waimea College teacher Sarah Kennedy flies stateside tomorrow to take up a prestigious Fulbright scholarship, her students won't be far from her mind.
Kennedy has been working in the special education department at the Richmond school since 1989. She is as passionate about her job today as she was in the beginning. Now head of the department, Kennedy is planning to use the scholarship to research the best way to help students with high learning needs make the transition from college to "the next bit of their adventure".
For four months, Kennedy will be based in Bloomington, Indiana, where she will take classes at the Indiana University School of Education and work on her research project, which she hopes will help answer a couple of important questions: What makes a successful transition for students with high learning needs and which policies, provisions and procedures deliver the "biggest bang for the buck" in a transition programme.
The United States was about 10 years ahead of New Zealand in the "deinstitutionalised process", she said.
"There's quite a bit I could learn from that."
Kennedy aims to work closely with four families in the US who have a students with high learning needs in their final year at college.
"I hope to talk with the students, families, teachers and principals about what they do, what makes it successful."
She also plans to share the four-year transition programme that has been developed at Waimea College.
"This college and the department have got probably one of the most comprehensive transition processes in the country," Kennedy said.
Transition co-ordinator Alison Browning, who will be the acting head of department in Kennedy's absence, led the programme, which the students started at 17 to prepare them for leaving college aged 21, a time that could be "hugely daunting".
There were 38 students in the department, along with "a really solid team" of six teachers and 10 teacher aides.
Kennedy is one of two 2016 recipients of the Fulbright Distinguished Awards in Teaching Programme for New Zealand Teachers; the other is Dr Simon McMillan, head of science at Kaikorai Valley College in Dunedin.