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CEC & DCDT Webinar | Building a Culture of Self-Determination

Online Event
Past Event

Self-determination has always been a big part of a student’s transitional years. Practicing the I’m Determined Elements, or skills, abilities, and beliefs associated with self-determined behavior all point to higher outcomes for students with disabilities. The problem is that not all students have the same opportunity to practice these elements. For that reason, embedding a culture of self-determination into the fabric of a school division is critical, as it allows for higher levels of competence, autonomy, and relatedness to be felt by youth and educators. This webinar will showcase how divisions are building a culture of self-determination into their existing frameworks and will discuss the importance of this practice.

Audience: Special ed teacher, directors, building admins


  • Member = Free
  • Non-member = $29


Presenter #1: Dr. John McNaught, Principal Investigator | I'm Determined

John's headshot in a blue quarter zip sweatshirt.

John’s passion for inclusion and self-advocacy began in high school when his previously included friend disappeared into a self-contained classroom for students with ID in 9th grade. Activism, advocacy, and connections (his mom was a teacher at the high school) led to a slow transition to a more inclusive model, and more importantly, a reunion with his friend. This experience led to John taking the long and winding road that eventually led to the creation of the I’m Determined Project in 2006.

One constant since the 1989 inclusive uprising has been John’s passion for student voice and autonomy. I’m Determined was founded on the belief that through a foundation of competence, autonomy, and relatedness, the sky is the limit for youth with disabilities and they are the pilot.

Presenter #2: Kendal Swartzentruber, Implementation Lead | I'm Determined

Kendal's headshot in a blue quarter zip sweatshirt.

Back in the day, teachers told Kendal that he required additional assistance to learn how to spell SWARTZENTRUBER. What was a possible solution? He taught himself with a song.

During high school, coaches urged Kendal to toughen up, but in place of toughness, he was kind, confusing his opponents with encouragements like "Nice shot!" and "Great move!"

Kendal grew up and became a teacher and a coach, and yes, he continued to sing and be kind. He coached his students to be proud and encouraged them to be the best versions of themselves. He taught his players to look for alternative solutions and to create opportunities when possibilities seem limited.

Kendal is the Implementation Lead for Virginia's statewide I'm Determined Project. He creates transformative spaces where young people discover their own capabilities, and communities empower a new generation of learners to lead with kindness, compassion, and care.

Presenter #3: Jesse Rodriguez, Innovation Lead | I'm Determined

Jesse's headshot in a blue quarter zip sweatshirt.

Back in high school, Jesse used to painstakingly unthread the logos from his clothing and hats so that he wouldn’t be seen as part of the status quo. He didn’t know it then, but that was the start of his journey as someone who finds unique ways of communicating ideas. Then when he discovered his connection to youth with disabilities, he realized that he was among experts who’ve been finding ways to do things differently all their lives.

Leaning into these connections has brought him to become the Innovation Lead for Virginia’s statewide I’m Determined Project – developing and producing animated videos and feature-length movies, facilitating events, and building tools and resources for youth, families, and educators – all as ways to help students ink their journeys for the world to see.

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