``I am a teacher. Teachers are my tribe. When we, as teachers feel heard, cared about, respected and understood, we are ready learners, open to new ideas and the shifts in teaching that professional development can initiate. I use evidence based practices to develop professional learning in Universal Design for Learning and Assistive Technology. My experience is as diverse as the students we teach.`` --Susan Simmons
I have a private practice in southern California developing custom professional learning for educators in both Universal Design for Learning (UDL) and Assistive Technology (AT). Diverse experiences from my own unique career path have resulted in my passion for UDL & AT. I create workshops on topics of current interest in the field offered at regional locations, open to everyone. As a life long learner I continue to find opportunities to meet and study with leaders in the field. I am a frequent speaker at conferences and wherever educators gather.
I grew up moving schools every year, because my father served in the military. Honestly, I hated school. Health issues that required taking a range of medications impacted my processing and working memory. That struggle to learn, especially to read, has enabled me to truly empathize with issues our students face.
My first job after college was teaching in a public school in Texas. My 4th graders were hearing impaired primarily using Total Communication. I loved the expression of sign language. That experience deepened my understanding of language development, working out ways to support the extensive needs of those students. This was the beginning of my journey to make learning truly meaningful.
A new opportunity to learn came when I joined a multidisciplinary team at Children’s Hospital, Child Study Center in Oklahoma City. Our 10 member team assessed children from birth to age 5. I worked with a variety of disabilities and challenges including blind and visually impaired students providing 1:1 support. Working with our director who was a neurologist and the staff of OTs, PTs, Psychologists, Pediatricians, as well as other teachers afforded me a unique medical and educational foundation I never could have imagined.
Earning my M.Ed. in Teaching Blind and Visually Impaired Students took me to Boston College. I also became an Orientation and Mobility Specialist. Suffice it to say my experience with this population was fascinating. After earning my M.Ed. I began the journey to earn my Ph.D. continuing working with blind and visually impaired students. During this time I worked on research projects I taught at the college level.
Upon returning to California, my first position was the Director of Education and Blind Children’s Center. Then I moved to become a Program Specialist overseeing the services of students who were Blind or Visually Impaired, Deaf and Hard of Hearing at a district serving about 30,000 students. I also served as special education administrator for a school for Severely Handicapped Students. Over the 12 years in that district I was given the opportunity to start and expand Assistive Technology (AT) Services. Since there were only a few ATs in the area I began teaching others how to assess AT needs.
My opportunities for learning continued, joining a multidisciplinary team at the California Department of Education, Diagnostic Center. Again I was able to work on multidisciplinary teams with some of the most challenging students in my career. There, I was able to develop workshops for teachers all around Southern California, including a certificate program for ATs. I supported teachers in their classrooms through special projects and began my journey of discovery to Universal Design for Learning (UDL). A highlight in my early UDL training was attending the Harvard UDL Summer Institute and being invited back as a teaching fellow.
California Teaching Credentials
- Professional Clear Multiple Subject
- Professional Clear Specialist Instruction Credential in Special Education: Communication Handicapped; Visually Handicapped (Although I do not maintain the credential my Master’s Degree included Orientation & Mobility)
Universal Design for Learning:
2006 Attended Harvard University Graduate Summer Institute
2007 Teaching Fellow/Harvard UDL Institute
Assistive Technology Certificates
2002 Assistive Technology Certificate Program Graduate (ATACP), California State University Northridge
1999 National Association of State Directors of Special Education, Completed AT Certificate
AREAS OF EXPERIENCE
I am comfortable working with a wide range of student needs. My years working on assessment teams at diagnostic center gave me a breadth experience to add to a rich background.
Assistive Technology, classroom design, and communication needs expressed as behaviors are all areas of expertise and topics for professional development. Students with:
- complex and multiple disabilities
- who struggle with curriculum access e.g. dyslexia, ADHD, autism, cognitive delays.
- visually impairments
- hearing impairments
are among the students I am asked to consult in classrooms.