Celebrating Educators: Rona Cue

“How can we sing this? How can we act this? How can we create this?” In her classroom, Rona engages students with kinesthetic learning.

In Rona Cue's classroom, students review for assessment by "bowling for questions."

In Rona Cue’s classroom, students review for assessment by “bowling for questions.”

Goalbook reached out to our partners in search of teachers who have transformed traditional teaching into personalized learning experiences for their students. One educator who is finding new ways to reach her students is Rona Cue, a Special Education teacher at Blenheim Elementary and Middle School in Blenheim, South Carolina. Recently named her school’s Teacher of the Year for 2014, Rona’s creative blend of kinestetic learning, engaging activities, and best-practice instruction ensure all of her students reach their maximum potential.

Before starting her career as a teacher, Rona had an interest in Fashion Design: today, her innate sense of creativity is no doubt a key factor in her unique approach to designing instructional strategies that provide multiple means of access for her students. What makes Rona’s classroom unique is that she recognizes the inherent value of kinesthetic learning with her students and helps them explore by creating or modeling the concepts they’re attempting to master.

Her unique approach sprung from the need to adapt instruction for students. She saw some of her students struggling a couple grade levels behind their peers, and recognized that she needed to try a new approach: repetition and drills just weren’t getting through to them.

Rona’s solution was to transform the traditional notion of her “classroom” to involve a variety of hands-on learning experiences whenever possible. Students build a model of the body systems or use sidewalk chalk to draw math problems on the ground in front of the school. Students cut open wig stands and use them to illustrate the various parts of the brain, or “bowl for questions” during review sessions.

Students diagram the brain on wig stands, indicating the various sections with different colors.

Students diagram the brain on wig stands, indicating the various sections with different colors.

Personalizing learning for students isn’t just about leading engaging educational activities: ultimately, this approach leads to academic success. Rona confirms, “kids remember content better for assessments and their detail and know content-specific vocabulary. Science means more to them when it is done with their own hands; it is empowering when it is something they created.”

Ultimately, when students are taught in kinesthetic lessons, it has a significant impact on their academic performance. CAST’s research embodies this type of instruction with the Universal Design for Learning (UDL) framework, which encourages instructional goals, methods, materials, and assessments that work for everyone through representation, action and expression, and engagement.

Despite having accumulated an extensive collection of instructional materials over the years, Rona continues to be a leader and innovator. She is always asking herself, “how can we sing this? How can we act this? How can we create this?” By continually refreshing her approach, Rona has been able to ensure that all of her students have an opportunity to engage in meaningful learning activities.

We can only imagine what it would be like to be a student in Rona’s class: there would be a new, challenging, and meaningful learning activity to look forward to every day!

Do you know a teacher like Rona, who makes every day unique for students? Leave us a comment below or send us an email!

Check Out the Engaging Strategies in Our Toolkit!

Speech & Language Goals are Published

We are excited to announce the availability of Speech & Language grade goals and strategies in the Goalbook Toolkit!

There are a variety of speech and language difficulties that can affect a student’s ability to meet the Common Core standards.

This is why “there is no better time than now to help educators, parents, and other constituents understand the foundational underpinnings of language and literacy and the value SLPs can bring through intervention and collaboration” (The ASHA leader, Integrating the Core, 2012).

Goalbook has developed Speech & Language goals that meaningfully connect what is being taught in the classroom and what is being treated for in therapy sessions. Our comprehensive content and resources span all 7 areas of Speech & Language assessment and treatment. 

Browse through the entire collection here:


Or checkout the sample goals below.
(Sign into your Toolkit account to view them in full).

• Expressive Language: Expressing Ideas During Discussions
 Receptive Language: Understanding Verbs/Adjectives & Opposites
• Articulation: Verbally Paraphrase Portions of a Text

As always, feel free to reach out to us with feedback and ideas.


Now Available: David Rose’s Webinar Video/Slides

We recently hosted a Goalbook Distinguished Speaker Series webinar with David H. Rose, professor at Harvard Graduate School of Education and founder of Universal Design for Learning. 
David led participants on an amazing journey through the latest brain research, demonstrating how UDL can be used in the classroom to help all students achieve the Common Core.
Future webinar recordings and presentation slides will now be available for viewing on the new Professional Development page inside the Goalbook Toolkit! The webpage allows you to track your progress through our 5 training modules and grants access to a wide range of expert resources.
Feel free to share David’s webinar with your colleagues or watch it again if you missed any part of the conversation. 

Learnings from the Urban Collaborative Fall Member Meeting

The Urban Collaborative Logo

We were fortunate to attend the Urban Collaborative Fall Member Meeting in Pittsburgh, PA from October 24 – 27.  Below is a summary of our big takeaways from the conference.  — Daniel Yoo

We’ve Made Progress

Inclusion in General Education Classroom

Everyone attending the conference last month was committed to moving students to access the general education curriculum and ensuring that a continuum of services are in place to meet students’ needs.  Almost every administrator knew the the percentage of their students who were primarily educated in the general education classroom.  Not every percentage was the same, but every percentage was moving in right direction, towards inclusion.

Importance of General Education and UDL

Because of the move to the general education setting, conference attendees agreed that a growing need was to ensure effective instructional practices were in place in the classroom.  Universal Design for Learning (UDL) was cited in almost every discussion as the set of principles and strategies for helping general education classrooms better serve all students.

Empowering Teachers and Building Administrators with PD/Resources

I was impressed with the level of work already underway to help teachers and principals transition to effective Common Core instruction in both general education and special education.  Some districts have created model lesson plans co-developed by general educators and special educators.  Professional development in the Common Core have included both general educators and special educators and these materials have been made available online so site leaders can replicate the training with their own staff.

Challenges to Meet

Ensuring Consistency of Implementation

How do district leaders ensure that the professional development offered or materials created actually get implemented in classrooms and school buildings?  One of the keynote speakers, Dr. Brian McNulty, focused on the use of educator data teams to create and sustain change in classroom practices.

Professional Development

PD is expensive to deliver and difficult to find available times in the school calendar.  As a result, some districts have made trainings optional or post created materials and models online for anyone in the district to access.  However, this brings up the question of consistency.

Raising Expectations with Intensive Level of Needs

Rachel Quenemoen led the second keynote and shared powerful videos of students with severe disabilities demonstrating their learning (and joy) of the general education curriculum.  However, a few administrators shared anecdotes of push back from special educators who might not share the same high academic expectations for students with more significant needs.

Use of Paraeducators

The Fordham Report, “Boosting the Quality and Efficiency of Special Education,” was discussed in a group setting during the conference.  While there were many questions about the report, one area of agreement was the often inappropriate and sometimes over-reliance of 1-to-1 paraeducators.

How Goalbook Can Help

It was a honor to participate in the Urban Collaborative conference last week alongside such a powerful and innovative group of education leaders who are working to build an education system that serves ALL students.  At Goalbook we have developed a Common Core Toolkit to help special educators model IEP goals based on the Common Core, UDL accommodations and modifications, and instructional resources.   Goalbook is more than just a resource, it’s a professional learning tool for your teachers to effectively and efficiently support their students in the any classroom under the new Common Core standards.

To find out more visit: https://toolkit.goalbookapp.com

The Urban Special Education Leadership Collaborative is a network of special and general education leaders working together to improve outcomes for students with disabilities in the nation’s urban schools. It’s members are among the largest and most influential school districts in the United States.  To learn more visit their website at: http://www.urbancollaborative.org

Special Education and the Common Core

The transition to the Common Core State Standards presents both a challenge and incredible opportunity for our students with special needs.  While they set high expectations to help our students be college and career ready, they also allow flexibility for multiple means of access and assessment.

However, if we as special educators don’t prepare early, then we run the risk of turning our students with special needs into secondary citizens. While their general education peers are engaging in a new and innovative curriculum, resources, and teaching methodologies around the common core, our exceptional learners will be remain stuck in outdated standards and curriculum.

The three strategic initiatives below are the most fundamental initial steps to fulfill the promise of this new change:

1) Special Educators Trained in Common Core Standards and Curriculum

Special educators need to be involved with their classroom colleagues in trainings around the Common Core.  As the expectations for general and special education collaboration continue to rise, we need to prepare our staff to speak the same language as their colleagues and be valuable contributors to lesson planning, assessment, and provide better access to benefit of all students.

2) Standards Aligned IEPs

Given that the IEP is the driving force in a student’s education program it is critical that academic IEP goals are aligned to the new Common Core standards in ELA and math.  As inclusive placements are more commonplace, IEP goals must be relevant to the general education teacher and the curriculum they use in the classroom.

3) General Educators Trained in Universal Design for Learning

Most general educators will be prepared in the Common Core Standards and the general curriculum, but most will NOT be prepared in making the necessary accommodations and modifications to provide access to students with special needs.  Universal Design for Learning is a powerful framework to increase accessibility and engagement that special educators are rallying around.  General educators will need to be trained in the fundamentals of UDL and use of accommodations and modifications should be incorporated into their ongoing coaching and evaluation.

Early Innovation

I am encouraged to see significant innovation and efforts in this space:

The Urban Special Education Leadership Collaborative is convening a group of innovative and proactive special education leaders who are gathering to discuss and take action to help their organizations meet the needs of all their students.  Their fall member meeting is entirely focused on the topic of making Common Core meaningful for students with disabilities.

Goalbook is developing a first of its kind Toolkit with Common Core aligned goals, measurable objectives, and accommodations/modifications based on UDL guidelines.  If you are interested in learning more about this valuable resource, please go here.

Related Articles

1) CEC: Six principles for principals to consider in implementing CCSS for students with disabilities (PDF)

2) Edweek: Special Educators Look to Tie IEPs to Common Core

Daniel Yoo is the Founder and CEO of Goalbook.  He was previously a special education teacher and administrator for five years at Ravenswood City School District in East Palo Alto, California.