First of all, who am I and why am I creating a blog?
My name is Wendy Parker and I have been the Director of Special Education at Prairie Lakes AEA in Iowa since December of 2012. In this position, I supervise support services for Special Education for 44 school districts. Prior to this position I spent 13 years at Newton Community Schools doing everything from Assistant Principal at the MS to PK-12 Special Education Coordinator to Secondary Educational Services Director. I was also a MS Principal in another Iowa District and spent my teaching career as a BD Teacher and Behavior Interventionist in Des Moines and Burlington, Iowa as well as Columbus, Ohio. I have a BA in Secondary English Education from the University of Iowa, an MA in Special Education from Western Illinois University, and am ABD for my Ph.D. in Educational Administration from Iowa State University.
So, I have spent A LOT of my life teaching and supervising Special Education. As a result of this experience, I have realized all of the many, many things that do not work in the realm of Special Education. I have historically viewed the work of AEA administration as yet another cog in the wheel of the Special Education bureaucracy; so it was a rather curious thing for me to join the ranks of AEA. I did this because of my relationship with the Chief Administrator of Prairie Lakes AEA, Jeff Herzberg. Jeff and I took several courses in Ed Admin at Iowa State together and we have seen each other periodically over the years as we weaved our way through our respective administrative careers. In each of these conversations, we always ended up at a spot where we were shouting our belief that if only the right people were unleashed, the world of education as we know it would be abolished and a new, innovative, effective, and passionate system would take over. It is with that emotion of true reform that I accepted the position I have now.
One of my first challenges was to communicate this new message to around 200 staff members who serve districts in a vast geographic area with nine AEA offices. I wanted the message to be upbeat, yet challenging enough to let them know that business would not be as usual. My first attempt was a boring powerpoint with pictures and I knew this was going to motivate no one to think or act differently. Of the many gifts I have in my life, amazing and talented children are one of the greatest of all of them. My son, Andrew, works for a small production company in Chicago and he took the words and passion from my bad powerpoint and made it into an amazing video that I believe perfectly captures the message and questions I am trying to convey.
This is the primary reason for this blog. To share the message that we need to make Special Education services more effective, that things cannot continue in the current bureaucratic madness where so many of us have resided for so long. Along with the video are links for you to access to start walking this amazing journey of change.
I would love to get more ideas from you and to hear your comments, questions, or disputes. The more we support each other as a community, the stronger we are, and the more incredible things we will accomplish for kids.
By the way, the blog name of Rapacious Learning is dedicated to my dear friend, Dr. Brad Buck, Superintendent of Saydel Schools in Iowa. Brad and I took many, many classes together in Ed Admin at ISU and, being the ADHD people that we are, we created many of our own moments of entertainment. This included an ICN class where we got all of the class members to sing and dance the hokey pokie, taking turns napping just outside of the camera in the ICN room, and using vocabulary words that we enjoyed as much as possible. One of our favorites was the word rapacious. Rapacious means aggressively greedy, ravenous, predatory and we would use it often and with feeling. I think Brad would agree that rapacious learning is exactly what we are after:)