CCLD Research Project
In recent years, the Research Project has funded action research connected to professional development provided through Math on the “Planes”
Colorado Council for Learning Disabilities created a unique research project. It began in the mid -1980’s and continues today partly because of the legacy of three wonderful and dedicated educators.
Gertrude MyersGertrude was a special education professor at Denver University and then at Northeastern Illinois University in the 70’s and 80’s. Gertrude significantly impacted the teacher preparation program and touched many special education teachers in Colorado through her classes and her dedicated work as a CCLD board member.
Gertrude approached the Council for Learning Disabilities board and the Colorado Department of Education Special Education Services Unit with a plan to raise money to award yearly grants to teachers who were conducting research in their classrooms. She envisioned creating resources from foundation and private contributions to give out several awards every year to deserving applicants. Over a period of time from the late 80’s until her death in the early 90’s, her dream became reality as the CCLD board developed an active research committee to award yearly grants. An account was opened to fund the projects, and a teacher guidebook was developed.
In the Colorado Council for Learning Disabilities Research Project, Gertrude created a legacy. When she knew she was dying, she called several CCLD board members to her bedside and made them promise that they would see that the research project continued. After her death, Art Myers, Gertrude’s husband, set up a memorial fund for the CCLD Research Project.
Ellie SmuckerEllie was a special education teacher in Cherry Creek School District in the 1970’s and early 80’s. She was not only one of the early LD specialists, but also one of the founding members of the Colorado Council for Learning Disabilities. She served on the board for several years and was instrumental in bringing the National CLD Conference to Denver in the fall of 1980. This provided the opportunity for many CCLD members to meet and acquaint themselves with some of the leaders in the field of Learning Disabilities. This provided the strong base of dedicated officers who built the Colorado chapter into one of the premier CLD branches in the country, a tradition that continues today.
After a nine year battle, Ellie died of breast cancer in April of 1990, at the time when CCLD was beginning to develop its Teacher Research Project. Ellie’s husband made the project one of the beneficiaries of memorials for Ellie, and the funds have continued to support classroom-based research for two decades. This has proved to be a lasting memory to one of CCLD’s important founders and early LD teachers.
Beatrice FernBea Fern, the mother of Lois Adams (long-time CLD member and CCLD board member), was a teacher in every cell of her body. As she often said, she would rather teach than eat! Her favorite students were those who had trouble learning. She had a wealth of stories about her experiences as teacher/principal/janitor in a one-room school outside of Chicago. One of the stories focused on the boy who could not read or write no matter what she tried. She just could not stop thinking about him and often wished she had known about learning disabilities at the time she taught him. However, she must have done something right, because, as an adult, he built her a beautiful cupboard for her dining room!
When she died in 1991, Lois asked that memorial gifts be sent to CCLD for the Teacher Research Project so other teachers would have support to try promising practices in their classrooms just as Mrs. Fern had done. Contributions to her memorial were added to those of Ellie Smucker to finance the project.
And so it is that CCLD, an organization that has always been run by strong, dedicated teachers has a tangible legacy to give to teachers to encourage them to explore and evaluate promising practices for students who are struggling learners. It is gratifying to know that the legacy continues as a fitting homage to three outstanding teachers.
2011 Research Award Recipients
Our first research award recipient is Bertha Orona. Bertha has been teaching at Adams City Middle School for 19 years. This past spring, as part of her Math on the “Planes”
As Bertha recently wrote, “Even though teaching can be very stressful and tiring, the best reward for me is being able to individually reach my students wherever their particular needs may be and hopefully introducing them to a love for learning. Seeing the sparkle in their eyes and the big smile when they "get it", makes all those hours of planning and grading worth the time.” Bertha also offered the following advice to new teachers coming into the profession: “Don’t give up on your students. Even though some of them may work very hard to make your day difficult, we always need to keep in mind that there is some reason that they need that attention--whether it is that they do not understand the content or that they may be struggling with a personal difficulty. We always need to be sensitive to what our students may be struggling to figure out. Our profession goes beyond what is going on in the classroom. Letting students know that we believe in them is the first step to being able to reach them.”
Our second research award recipient is Joan Klein. A native of eastern Colorado, Joan has been teaching for 25 years in the La Junta/Rocky Ford part of our state. She has spent the majority of that time working with middle school and high school students in science and, most recently, mathematics. Joan chose to work with a high school student, Brian, as part of her Math on the “Planes”
Joan shared that following her participation in Math on the “Planes”
To both Bertha Orona and Joan Klein, the board of the Colorado Council for Learning Disabilities extends its heartiest congratulations for their excellent research projects!