Special Education alumna Annie Harrell, Sped ’01, MS ’07, was recently voted Teacher of the Year by the Oregon Association for Vocational Special Needs Personnel, a division of the Oregon Association for Career and Technical Education. She works in the Community Transition Program (CTP) at David Douglas School District (DDSD), a program for 18-21-year-olds who have graduated with a modified diploma.
Ms. Harrell previously worked in special education at the Multnomah Education Service District and was hired by David Douglas District for a life skills class. DDSD began the transition program seven years ago.
“We really needed a program for our 18-21-year-olds,” said Barbara Kienle, David Douglas Director of Student Services. “We were familiar with Annie from her work with the district and decided she was the best fit for our program. She brought a lot of teaching skills, experience, and vocational skills to the job. She is passionate about students with disabilities and totally focused on life skills, increasing independence, and vocational training for her students.”
Ms. Harrell was instrumental in launching several fledgling businesses at DDSD that are now operated by CTP students, including: Raising Sun Plants greenhouse, Sunshine Express coffee kiosks at two locations, and Douglas Doggies, a dog biscuit business for students whose skills are more limited. “She was the mover behind CTP student involvement in all of those,” says Ms. Kienle. “She made all of them happen and come to fruition.” Transition students also operate the Kids Closet, a district resource for needy children; and the Supply Depot, where teachers and district personnel share surplus supplies. Vocational Coordinator Ron Hall, who nominated Ms. Harrell, helps her students find jobs or volunteer positions in the community.
Most transition students have only part-time jobs, so she helps them find ways to productively fill leisure time. They explore recreational resources, and learn about transportation options. Ms. Harrell and PSU alumna Kriss Rita, Sped ’06, her transition counterpart in nearby Centennial School District, find ways to make the best use of resources by team teaching and sharing activities. They created Rent Well, a new course to help students navigate the rental market, and organized a driver education course for east county.
Ms. Harrell also works with GSE faculty to develop new curriculum. “Annie Harrell showed promise during her graduate work at Portland State University,” said Sue Bert, GSE special education senior instructor. “As a result of her dedication and accomplishments as a transition teacher within the David Douglas School District, Annie is now lending her expertise to prepare future transition teachers through an innovative federally funded program in the Graduate School of Education at PSU. We are very fortunate to have Annie as a partner in this important work. Congratulations Annie!”