As Virginia’s Speech-Language Pathology Specialist since 2005, Marie Ireland is the state’s SLP subject matter expert. She oversees training, stays abreast of research and current trends, answers regulatory questions from schools and districts, and provides professional development for SLPs, as well as for school administrators.
On a daily basis she receives calls and emails from graduate students, education professionals, and families. “I find it rewarding to assist them knowing that they are better equipped to move forward after they have an answer to their questions or better awareness of regulations governing special education and resources in Virginia,” she says.
One of her first tasks when she accepted the position was working on a team to develop the document Speech Language Pathology Services in Schools: Guidelines for Best Practice, which is used by all Virginia graduate training programs and has been adopted for use by seven state education agencies across the country.
In 2010 she served on the professional team appointed by the Virginia General Assembly to assess the need for additional screening tools for early identification of dyslexia. The resulting report was Study of Dyslexia Screening for Kindergartners.” She advocates for legislation that impacts SLPs and individuals with communication disorders at both the state and national levels.
Ireland has served on the executive board of the State Education Agencies Communication Disabilities Council, a national association supporting school-based SLPs. She served on the Speech-Language Hearing Association of Virginia’s (SHAV) board of directors for six years, including one term as its president.
She has also served on the American Speech-Language Hearing Association’s School Finance and Medicaid committees and is currently vice chair of the SLP Advisory Council. She led a group on a national survey of school-based SLP practice and published one of the largest studies about evidence-based SLP practice in schools. She was one of four authors awarded the ASHA Editors award for her co-authored publication, Evidence Based Speech-Language Pathology Practices in Schools: Findings from a National Survey.
The Curry School’s Role
“My graduate school experience at Curry provided a solid foundation of coursework, invaluable support from professors, and unique fieldwork experiences in local schools,” Ireland says. “Curry exemplified a culture of collaboration between professionals, state and local agencies, and students, and I am proud to continue to strive for that level of collaboration in my career.”
The Career Path
A former lead SLP for Chesterfield County Public Schools, Ireland and her colleagues negotiated extended contracts for SLPs so they could continue working with students over the summer. Then, they secured a five percent salary bonus for SLPs and audiologists with ASHA certification. As a result, the district experienced decreased staff turnover, demand for recruitment and training of new hires, and parent complaints.
Ireland was selected for state specialist role not long after Curry alumna Lissa Power-deFur left the VDOE in 2004 to teach at Longwood University in the Department of Social Work and Communication Disorders.
I was delighted that Marie made the decision to move from Chesterfield County to the Virginia Department of Education to share her creativity and enthusiasm for the profession,” says Lissa Power-deFur (B.A. ’75, M.Ed. ’76, Ph.D. ’82 Speech Path & Aud). “She is an excellent presenter and has worked hard to engage school-based SLPs in thinking about evidence-based practice in their assessments and intervention.