Annette M. Porter
(B.S. ’78, M.Ed. ’82 Special Ed)
My whole experience at U.Va,—undergrad and graduate—in the education school, were valuable and left memories I’ll forever hold dear.
Of course, the whole U.Va. experience and living and being a part of a school that has such historical significance will always hold a special place in my heart and for me is a home away from home.
Special memories, from living in the first co-ed set of suites at Fitzhugh, the winter food tray rides down the stadium hill behind the goal posts, the differences and diversity of dear roommates throughout the years, the intramural sports as well as the club sports (women were just being introduced into varsity sports individually as Title IX came into existence), the ability to be a part of the University and community while singing in the University Singers and the community Oratorio Society, and the Ed School itself—all these memories are special.
Oh, the memories from the Ed School. First and foremost were all the wonderful professors, like Marti Snell, Sandi Cohen, Adelle Renzaglia, and others all throughout the whole school and specifically in the Special Education department—they who shared their knowledge and emphasized specific methodology with creativity for teaching within a classroom and in the community.
Adele was the first who taught the importance of teaching skills in the real environment vs. always in the classroom, and Marti provided the concrete methodology called Task Analysis, both of which I used in Fairfax County Public Schools where everyone thought I was crazy.
My graduate roommates at U.Va. will never forget the day they came home to a group of students vacuuming, dusting, and cleaning the bathroom with me, doing a task analysis for teaching and generalizing home skills. My roommates and I all laughed when we came home to the cleanser grit on the toilet seat that was left behind (those were the days when everyone was responsible for cleaning their OWN homes from top to bottom!).
I also have to thank Marti Snell for her emphasis on research and grant writing, since both of these skills have also been valuable to me in a novel inclusion program I developed in Fairfax County between a community preschool and a group of students needing special education. I have also been responsible for writing funding grants for a group, The Alliance for the Physically Disabled (theapd.org), which runs a community residence of seven called Merica House.
As you can see, I have much I could tell about my wonderful experiences while attending the University, and will always cherish it all.
I am retired now after 32 years with Fairfax County Schools. I ended up teaching, testing, being a teacher observer and mentor teacher and filled in for administrative responsibilities. While you don’t get a lot of kudos while you’re working, I ended up receiving an outstanding teacher award as a preschool special education teacher. It all comes to fruition in the end and the memories while teaching also mean a lot.
I am now serving as second vice president on a board of directors for The Alliance of the Physically Disabled, which is responsible for managing a home environment for seven adults all with just physical disabilities. I have found that I use many of the skills learned from Special Education at U.Va. with the residents, especially in manipulating their motor movements and making suggestions for alternative physical positioning that benefit their wellbeing. These skills were learned in my master’s program (Special Education: The Severe and Profoundly Handicapped) taught under the auspices of Marti Snell.