A trio of
faculty members from Indiana University of Pennsylvania’s Department of
Communication Disorders, Special Education, and Disability Services is creating a curriculum to be used in
special education classes at a university in Suriname.
Professors Becky Knickelbein, Joann Migyanka, and Kaylee Wynkoop developed the curriculum
for the classes, which are designed to help teachers already working in the
field to gain an understanding of how to help with students with special needs.
the highlight of my career,” Knickelbein said. “To do something unique like
this is a wonderful reflection on IUP. It shows that we’re reaching out to do
these kinds of things to make a difference in peoples’ lives.”
smallest country in South America—it’s roughly the size of Wisconsin—is
mostly rural, with 80 percent of its land covered by rainforest. In terms of
gross national product, it’s the second-poorest nation in South America, with
the average worker there making a little less than $8,000 (USD) in 2016.
educational system is also lacking in Suriname, the IUP educators said. Teachers
there are qualified to work with children, but they lack the educational
background to help with special education.
“If we can
improve the education of those children then
that’s the best thing we could do,” Migyanka said.
a businessman from Suriname, created Vanguard Community College a few years ago
in the capital city of Paramaribo. He met Tracy Settle, a 1980 IUP alumnus, in
the city and pair struck up a friendship. During their discussions, Chin
explained the lack of resources in Suriname to properly teach special
IUP Distinguished Alumni Award winner, contacted
Lara Luetkehans, the dean of the College of Education and Communications. Knickelbein,
Migyanka and Wynkoop quickly agreed to taking
on the project. They received a grant to cover expenses, including a trip in
August for Knickelbein and Migyanka to visit Suriname to learn first-hand about
the challenges teachers face there.
“There was only one road going out to these
villages where the schools are, and then you have to travel by boat to get to
them,” Migyanka said. “We saw what kind of conditions these teachers have to
work in, and what it’s like for the students.”
“They have no
special education programming,” Knickelbein explained. “The kids were sorted in
the schools, but there was no method for teaching the ones who have special
needs. So it’s good that we’re helping with that problem.”
Back here at
IUP, the trio continues to write curriculum to be sent to Suriname. They’ve
been working with Annelot Themen, the director of Vanguard’s new special
education program, to get the curriculum delivered to the teachers.
“We would do
anything to see these kids get the help they need,” Migyanka said. “It’s
something that could be really life-changing for these kids.”
bonus to this program is that the Minister of Education in Suriname has
promised to give teachers who complete this program a much-needed raise.
“Their pay is
incredibly low,” Knickelbein said. “One of our dollars equals seven of theirs,
and they make just enough to get by. So helping them get a raise is an added
bonus for us. This is going to make an incredible difference.”
still a lot of work to be done, but the IUP faculty members are hoping the
project could be used in other parts of the world, which would further the
mission of strengthening IUP’s value around the globe, one of the goals in the
University’s Strategic Plan.
“There are a
lot of places this could work,” Migyanka said. “If we can show that this model
has been successful, then we’d welcome the opportunity to try it elsewhere.”
PHOTO INFORMATION: From
left, Joanne Migyanka; Becky Knickelbein; IUP President Michael
Driscoll; College of Education and Communications Dean Lara Luetkehans, holding
the flag of Suriname.