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Professional Development Workshop 2018
Beacon College Drs. Shelly Chandler and Andrea Brode (seated) conduct a session during a recent College Disability Workshop.

There’s one cardinal rule for magicians: never reveal your secrets.

Yet, Beacon College rated the number one school for students with disabilities by BestValueSchools.com last did just that. Beacon faculty, staff, and students revealed the magic behind the liberal arts school’s peerless 70 percent four-year graduate rate for students with learning differences during a workshop for college disability educators.

“It’s important to share the ‘secret sauce’ as it’s all about helping student achieve academic goals,” says Stephanie Knight, Beacon director of admissions, who helped organize the workshop. “Just because they [other students] aren’t physically on our campus doesn’t mean we can’t provide a service to them.”

Designed to empower disability offices to build collaborations across campus, assess college readiness, and foster student success, “Cultivating Campus-wide Collaborations to Support Student Success” workshop attracted educators from throughout Florida, but also drew attendees from Georgia, Maryland, New York, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Texas for the two-day skull session, Feb. 22-23.

“Not only did they provide such a wealth of information and such a unique approach to many things, it also provided us all with the chance to network and talk with others in the field,” said Danielle Dietz, a learning specialist for the Learning Partners Program at Louisburg College in North Carolina. “Often we are the only ones on our campus that focus on disability issues, so being in a room full of knowledgeable and passionate educators was just good for the soul.”

Beacon President George Hagerty opened the first workshop Beacon College has hosted for college disability professionals by outlining the glacially slow evolution of higher education in effectively addressing the needs of students with learning disabilities.

LD graduates, Hagerty explained, are far more likely to enjoy purpose and career engagement if they believe professors cared about and inspired them, were partnered with a mentor who encouraged the graduate to pursue ambitions, and enjoyed an internship that allowed graduate to apply what he or she was studying.

Other sessions explored the Beacon College teaching model, social-emotional intelligence, the college’s Breakthrough Semester program, evaluations and diagnostics, faculty training, and the learning-specialist model.

Moreover, current and former students at Beacon College America’s first college or university accredited to award bachelor’s degrees primarily to students with learning disabilities, ADHD, dyslexia, and other learning differences added their voices and perspectives to the sessions.

In the end, Dietz said the sessions introduced innovative insights into better serving students with learning differences. Insights she’s eager to try out.

“I would so love to see some ways that we could use their faculty training model and apply it in a way for us to lead our own professional development at our home institutions,” she said. “What the faculty are doing at Beacon needs to be shared with their colleagues at other schools. What’s good for LD students is good for everything. Good teaching is just good teaching.”