About Amy Pleet-Odle
“We don’t receive wisdom, we must discover it for ourselves after a journey
that no one can take for us or spare us.” Marcel Proust
I have been an educator for nearly 50 years. In that time, I’ve been part of some amazing initiatives that created lasting change in the lives of students with special needs, the professionals who worked with them, and their families. Lucky for you - I’ve learned so much from hundreds of well intended experiments that didn’t exactly turn out. I can spare you some mistakes. When I started out teaching English I became especially intrigued by Dale, a seventh grader who made valuable contributions to classroom discussion, but couldn’t read or put his ideas on paper. I wanted to be the teacher he would never forget.
In fall of 1975, with passage of the first Special Education law, I resolved to gain competencies to teach students with reading and learning disabilities. I served as a special educator in four middle and high schools, so I appreciate what it takes to provide accommodations and specially designed instruction within rigorous instruction. I led IEP meetings and looked into the faces of parents who trusted us with their hopes. Most of all, I fell in love with those students who spent most of their energy hiding embarrassment of not learning like their peers. Everything changed when I became a Transition Coordinator at the district level. I discovered students I placed in work experiences didn’t know anything about their disabilities, much less how to advocate for the supports they needed. With reauthorization of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, 1997, transition was required in the IEP. By then, I was the Maryland Transition Specialist, in a position to influence transition services in Maryland. Fortunately, the US Office of Special Education Programs assembled state transition specialists and respected experts to engage in massive brainstorming sessions. I replicated their approach with local Maryland specialists from agencies and school districts to create our own policies and procedures. I learned so much from my colleagues as they launched new initiatives.
In 2000, having completed my doctorate in special education systems change from George Washington University, I joined the faculty of Towson University as the Special Education Graduate Director. With strong mentorship, I created the master’s program, developed courses, and recruited adjunct faculty. Six years later, I had hundreds of advisees, each with dreams of being a teacher that changed lives. Their vision inspired me to provide them cutting edge strategies and approaches and to model best practices through our instructional methods. I braided student empowering self-determination and family engagement practices throughout all the coursework. By 2007, we had expanded to seven satellite programs off campus. I retired from TU to join the faculty at my alma mater, University of Delaware as “Secondary Inclusion Specialist.” My job description was to collaborate in development of a dual certification program for secondary special education, teach courses, and support implementation of inclusive practices across the state, so I was back in classrooms again.
I added to my list of approaches that don’t work: one-size-fits-all professional development, lack of administrative endorsement, workshops without time to experiment, lack of focused feedback, and expecting teachers to integrate multiple priorities simultaneously into their classroom routines. Maybe your school has discovered these don’t work too. But I also learned that these critical conditions must be present:
- School principal leads the transformation process as instructional leader.
- Teachers buy-in and contribute to a professional learning community.
- School culture fosters internal drive in faculty and students.
- Professional development is an integrated, organized incremental process with opportunity options to personalize implementation.
- Coaching for improvement is based on trusting relationships and an intense commitment to nurture each teacher’s capacity to teach students with diverse needs.
Over the last decade, I have continued to expand my own capacity to curate high leverage evidence-based practices into an integrated system and to provide empowerment coaching for educators who are committed to transform their practice. I love rekindling teacher satisfaction! Check out My Services page for my Signature Packages.