Why I Teach: Training the Next Generation of Educators and Scholars

National Teacher Appreciation Week, May 8–12, 2023

This Teacher Appreciation Week, a few Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) Scholars who completed their degree programs with support from a Personnel Development to Improve Services for Children with Disabilities (ALN 84.325) discretionary grant administered by the Office of Special Education Programs shared “Why I Teach.”

Elaine Smolen, Ph.D., CED, LSLS Cert. AVEd

By: Elaine Smolen, Ph.D., CED, LSLS Cert. AVEd

I teach to ensure that every child who is deaf or hard of hearing can achieve their goals through language and literacy. I am hard of hearing, and I was proud to serve as a role model for my students when I worked as a classroom and itinerant teacher of the deaf. Now a Columbia University faculty member, I train the next generation of educators and scholars who will continue to revolutionize the field of deaf and hard of hearing education.

I completed my Ph.D. as an OSEP Scholar in the National Leadership Consortium in Sensory Disabilities (NLCSD). My OSEP scholarship provided valuable tuition and other financial support, without which my doctoral studies would not have been possible. Just as valuable were the interdisciplinary connections that NLCSD facilitated with other OSEP Scholars in sensory disabilities across the country. My approaches to research, teacher training, and outreach continue to be shaped by long-term collaborations with scholars in deafness, deadblindness, and visual impairment that began in NLCSD.

My favorite part of teaching now is mentoring preservice teachers of the deaf in our master’s program as they start to serve children and families for the first time. Our field is dynamic and highly interdisciplinary, weaving principles of language acquisition, developmental psychology, adult learning, cultural studies, and special education.

My students, many of whom are OSEP Scholars in our COlumbia COllaborate project (325K), must master both challenging coursework and specialized clinical skills. What keeps us going is an enduring belief in the potential of each child and family to achieve their dreams. I am grateful for OSEP’s support as we work to facilitate those dreams.

Elaine Smolen, Ph.D., CED, LSLS Cert. AVEd, is a visiting assistant professor in Deaf and Hard of Hearing Education at Columbia and working with the COlumbia COllaborate grant project that is supporting OSEP Scholars who completing our master’s program with interdisciplinary preparation for preservice teachers of the deaf and speech-language pathologists.

Smolen was an OSEP Scholar as part of the OSEP Leadership Consortia in Sensory Disabilities and Disabilities Associated with Intensive Service Needs grant (84.325H). She graduated from Columbia University in 2020 with a Ph.D. in Physical Disabilities (Deaf and Hard of Hearing) from Teachers College, Columbia University.

About OSEP Scholars and Personnel Development Program Grants

The U.S. Department of Education funds discretionary grants used for professional development to improve services results for children with disabilities. Individuals interested in finding a Personnel Development Program that meets their needs can visit the OSEP IDEAs That Work’s Discretionary Grants Database, select the “Program” filter “Personnel Development” and then use additional search options such as “State,” “Disability,” “Age of Children,” or “Type of Competition.”

Organizations interested in open grant competitions for Personnel Development to Improve Services and Results for Children with Disabilities (84.325) can learn more on the Applicant Information page.

Blog articles provide insights on the activities of schools, programs, grantees, and other education stakeholders to promote continuing discussion of educational innovation and reform. Articles do not endorse any educational product, service, curriculum or pedagogy.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *