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Reflecting on How Far We’ve Come This National Autism Awareness Month
There’s No “I” in Team: Evidence-Based Strategies for Teacher-Paraeducator Collaboration

This Giving Tuesday, CEC is excited to promote the work we are doing on behalf of those who work with exceptional infants, children and youth. Join our campaign now and spread the word for CEC on November 29!


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Donor Testimonials

icon quotation by Adrien Coquet from the Noun ProjectI give to recognize how CEC shaped my professional life, from my early years as a new teacher and graduate student through my career as a university professor. When I reflect on membership in CEC, I see colleagues, who became life-long friends and collaborators. I recall the many opportunities to present my work, to support my students' achievements, and to share the excitement of seeing our work in print in CEC journals—adding our bit to the growing knowledge of evidence-based practices in special education. The Special Interest Divisions, Units, and chapters gave me a "safe" place to test new ideas, spread my wings and practice leadership and advocacy. CEC supported me in so many ways--it sustained me professionally and personally across the full arc of my career. I want to give back and see new members find the same support, collegiality, and success! They will keep moving our profession forward and impacting the lives of children and families.

Susan Fowler

icon quotation by Adrien Coquet from the Noun ProjectThrough my many years of membership, the Council for Exceptional Children has provided a professional support system, a resource for new advances in best practices, and many opportunities to continue my professional development.

By participating in discussions at the Board of Governors' table and debating on the floor of the Delegate Assembly,  I learned the importance of collaboration and persuasive dialogue, which greatly assisted me to move along the career ladder from teacher, to special education administrator, and to my last professional position as superintendent.   

Even though this type of member-directed governance structure no longer exists, I encourage all members to become involved with the program and activities in the state/ provincial Units and Special Interest Divisions, and, when offered, participate in the membership advisory role at the national level.

Through CEC, I have gained knowledge and skills from professional colleagues, several of whom have become some of my closest friends.

I continue to be involved and contribute to acknowledge the benefits I accrued as a long-time member and to help strengthen CEC's advocacy efforts, public policy work, and the ability to represent all children and youth with exceptionalities through the advancement of the special education profession.  

Perhaps the footprints made by the sustained contributions of members will encourage new educators to join and current members to become actively engaged in the Council for Exceptional Children.

– Pam Gillet

icon quotation by Adrien Coquet from the Noun ProjectThe Council for Exceptional Children, especially the members, are credited with many of my history-making professional opportunities. The interactions with top professionals in the field gave me opportunities to learn from a wide range of experts as they shared their knowledge. CEC also provided me with many history-making experiences that enriched my professional and personal life.

During the early 70’s, CEC began to focus on increasing minority representation at all levels. During this period, my active participation helped me to understand the importance of my involvement in CEC as an African American. CEC continues to provide me with opportunities to interact with individuals addressing local, state, and national issues impacting the special need populations, especially those addressing diversity at all levels.  
One of my most cherished CEC experiences occurred during the National Convention in 1978. I was installed as the national CEC president, the only African American to hold this position in CEC’s 100-year history. It is my goal to continue giving to CEC and serve as an example, especially to African Americans. I hope my legacy will encourage others to support the Council for Exceptional Children’s efforts to increase diversity representation at all levels, including top leadership positions in the organization. 

– Parthenia Cogdell 

icon quotation by Adrien Coquet from the Noun Project

The Council for Exceptional Children (CEC) has been my professional home, as well as my friendship home, for over forty years. As a first-year teacher of third grade students, I was so surprised by how little I knew about children with differences. Time to go back to school! I decided I needed to expand my general education knowledge base and enrolled in a Master of Education special education program. While enrolled in a graduate level course, I was introduced in class to a new federal bill moving through Congress: The Education of All Handicapped Children Act. One evening, we attended a CEC meeting. The guest speakers in the class were Drs. Fred Weintraub, Al Abson, and Joe Ballard. I was spellbound by their presentation and joined CEC that evening. Best decision ever. As I continued my career, I was asked to create a program for adolescents who had behavior and learning issues. Not knowing where to begin-–and having spent years with five- and six-year-old children–-I found the support and mentoring I needed in CEC. 

During my three years as a doctoral student, I become active in CEC at the local chapter level. I had the opportunity to represent the local CEC chapter as the representative to the Delegate Assembly. As a teacher educator in a special education program, I continued to be amazed at the knowledge, collegiality, and support provided by CEC. I represented my state as the CEC governor, which provided opportunity to engage in leadership activities at the local, state, and national level. The information disseminated at the professional development meetings was so current and so detailed, I used it in all the classes I taught. My students from these classes were successful in serving their students, as they had the knowledge to do so. They supported students and families throughout the community, making amazing changes for all involved.

CEC provides the opportunity to learn from international and national special education leaders. Teaching can be isolating, so being part of a community of teachers allowed for so much professional and personal growth. I still appreciate the “ask a colleague” option the community offers. Being able to mentor and befriend new teachers proved to be a true gift. Building a network of students and colleagues across the world fulfills me to this day.

When asked why I give to CEC, I tell people how much I received from CEC throughout these forty-plus years. I tell them there is no other place to get so much information, support, and mentoring for the dues we pay. I tell them about the importance of legacy and how “giving back” is what keeps us moving forward. I tell them a gift will help teachers and children flourish. I tell them no gift will ever be enough to repay for what I have received from the organization. CEC has always been there for me. I want to be there for them.

– Suzanne Martin

icon quotation by Adrien Coquet from the Noun ProjectI joined the student chapter of the Council for Exceptional Children at the University of Oklahoma (OU) when I was getting my bachelor's degree, graduating in 1981. While I was a student, I became an officer at OU as well as secretary of our state student CEC group. I attended state CEC Conferences and met many knowledgeable individuals and mentors. This started my CEC career!  
When I started teaching, I continued to be active in CEC and attended several national and state conventions. The knowledge I gained as a new teacher helped me in my classrooms immensely. Teaching students with significant support needs in both Oklahoma and Colorado, we often felt isolated. The connections with others in the field helped to provide the support we needed to increase our skills and stay motivated.  
I then became a Consultant for the Colorado Department of Education, and the learning and connection with other professionals helped me to better provide teachers in the field with the latest evidence-based strategies. As I continued my professional path at the University level, I became the Faculty Advisory to our student CEC chapter at the University of Northern Colorado. To be able to guide new teachers in their careers and to help them see the value of being a member of the Council for Exceptional Children was so inspiring to me. These teachers are now changing the lives of their students and have their fellow CEC members as colleagues and friends.  
As new teachers are entering the field, we never know where our paths may cross again.  I have found that being a member of CEC allowed me to make life-long friends who I continue to collaborate with to this day. Being a volunteer on the CEC Board of Directors and the Leadership Development Committee has been an experience that has enriched my life. These experiences help me realized how supporting CEC financially is important. Providing funding so that more teachers might be able to enter the field and make a difference in the lives of students with special needs is critically needed. Encouraging students to become special educators and supporting them through our financial giving helps to ensure students with special needs have quality teachers. 

Robin Brewer

icon quotation by Adrien Coquet from the Noun Project

It may sound banal, but I was destined to be a professional in the field of special education. No close family member had a disability, but many life experiences nudged me in that direction—for example, knowing the adult daughter of family friends who had a significant intellectual disability but whose parents, despite conventional practice at that time, decided she should live at home and not in an institution; playing with the twin brothers, one with an ID, who lived across the street from my grandmother; volunteering in scouts at bowling parties and dances for adults with ID; being assigned as a camp counselor to supervise the cabin that included a Deaf student; and on and on. In both undergraduate and graduate studies, special education was my focus, but it was not until I was in my first University faculty position that a wise mentor suggested that I identify an organization with which to affiliate in order to create a professional network and contribute to the field. And, of course, the association I found was the Council for Exceptional Children.

Throughout my career and now in retirement, CEC has been the lighthouse for the field and my own work in it. It is the source of timely and accurate policy information, the voice for advocacy, the resource for exemplary research documenting the evolving special education knowledge base, the platform for observing and participating in debates about best practices, and a professional family that embraces the diversity of its members just as it celebrates the diversity of children and youth with disabilities. A conversation with an accountant makes the point: In describing being CEC's president and an active member in divisions and on committees, he looked at me incredulously and said, "Are you saying you do all that and don't get paid for it?" I looked back at him with an equally dumbfounded look and replied, "Why would I need to be paid? This is who I am." CEC is who we are. It is our identity and our passion.

– Marilyn Friend

icon quotation by Adrien Coquet from the Noun ProjectThe Council for Exceptional Children (CEC) is my professional home, and its members are my professional family. I became a member during my graduate school years under the mentorship of Dr. James J. Gallagher. We reinvigorated the student chapter at the University of North Carolina, and I served as its president. Our local state Unit has always been strong with leaders like Past-President Dr. Linda Marsal, who worked at the local, state, and national levels. These individuals were an inspiration to me, as I could see the difference their work made in bringing best practices to North Carolina. My first experience working at the national level within CEC was with The Association for the Gifted (TAG), followed by my service with the Knowledge and Skills Committee. It was there that I met Past-President Dr. Parthenia Cogdell. She has taught me so much and continues to mentor me. Over the years, CEC has been a key part of my professional (and personal) growth. The many individuals who took their time to mentor, support, and guide me are too numerous to count. It is my hope that, in some small part, I can continue in their tradition and legacy. This is why CEC is so important and why I continue to support it. 

– Mary Ruth Coleman

icon quotation by Adrien Coquet from the Noun ProjectIt has been a privilege to be associated with the Council for Exceptional Children (CEC) for so many years. It has been like a home for me as I have navigated through my career in special education as a teacher, in higher education, as a teacher trainer, and as an administrator. It has always been my go-to place. I have met so many wonderful people who have enhanced my life and helped me grow as an individual both professionally and personally. I have had the opportunity to serve in many roles and it has been an honor to give of my time to an organization that has served as a cornerstone for our profession. Giving to CEC is easy! I have received much more that I could ever give and am glad to be a small part of ensuring that CEC continues to be “THE source for information, resources and professional development for special educators.” 

– Mikki Garcia

icon quotation by Adrien Coquet from the Noun ProjectThroughout my career in education, the Council for Exceptional Children has served as a touchstone and a "north star" organization, guiding me throughout my career as teacher, administrator, and community partner in advancing the success of children, youth, and adults with disabilities and their families. Successful leaders realize that we each are brought into a relational, participatory, and shared life. And for me, CEC defines how an organization lives that success. Through my years as a special education teacher, my 30+ years in administration, and the local, state, and national leadership positions in which I have been honored to serve, it has been CEC's members and leaders who have guided me along a path of personal and professional growth. CEC truly has been and always will be my community of kindred spirits. It is an honor to give back to CEC, in small measure, a thank-you for the many ways in which CEC has enriched my life.

Bill Bogdan

icon quotation by Adrien Coquet from the Noun ProjectI became aware of the Council for Exceptional Children (CEC) as my mother attended state and national conferences. She was instrumental in initiating special education services in our local community and relied on CEC for support from kindred spirits. I entered the field indirectly because I was willing to add students with special needs to my class load as a beginning teacher in Maryland. Later, I was hired to teach special education and assigned students with a wide range of physical and intellectual challenges, followed by a crash summer workshop in "teaching the exceptional child" provided by the state education department. Learning how much I didn't know, I enrolled in a master's program and CEC became—and remains—an important part of my professional life.
CEC provides information, professional standards, and resources, and is a force in driving policy. CEC grassroot skills help our Florida CEC Unit impact state and local policies, improving services for families and enhancing university and district training. Whether addressing the earliest years or adulthood, CEC gives parents, teachers, and administrators a platform to unite around common goals. 
CEC encourages leadership through governance involvement at all levels. Serving in many roles provided an understanding of curriculum, policy, and organizational operations. Being a past president ends an office series, but not the life-long friendships, collegial connections, and institutional linkages included in CEC membership. These affiliations are the reason that I continue to give to CEC.
Expanding the foundation established by those who came before us is important to ongoing organizational development. Receiving much from CEC, I hope that by giving back, CEC will continue affording others the same opportunities as future generations expand the CEC Legacy.

– Diane Johnson

icon quotation by Adrien Coquet from the Noun Project

I made this donation because I recognize the role CEC has played in the success of my career over the years. When I started teaching in a class for students with behavioral disorders back in 1974, I had never had even a single course in special education. Had I not had the amazing support of the teachers in our local CEC Ellen Maltais 878 Chapter, I am confident I would never have made it passed my first year! Instead, the information, networking, colleagues, strategies, and overall leadership I received from Chapter 878, GA CEC, CEC, GCASE, and CASE over the years have led to an amazing career spanning 47 years. I am beyond thankful for the leadership and legacy CEC has provided to me and is still providing to me. I want to make sure the future generations of special education personnel have these critical resources available to them so they too can have a fruitful and rewarding career. Our students deserve it! 

– Luann Purcell

icon quotation by Adrien Coquet from the Noun ProjectAs a junior at Northern Illinois University, I joined our student chapter of CEC for the social aspects of the chapter as much as I did to participate in the student-focused activities on campus and at area schools. Two years later as a new teacher, I quickly clung to CEC for survival. My local Starved Rock Chapter colleagues became life-long friends and reliable resources as I learned everything that goes with being a new teacher. Our Illinois CEC Unit, ICEC, was so active and influential I realized I could learn and grow in my chosen professional of special education and quickly volunteered for everything.

I received mentoring from numerous role models in Illinois who showed me the possibilities. It was my association with a former president of CEC and ICEC from Illinois, Jean Preston, that contributed to my vision that a small-town girl who became a special education teacher at a neighborhood school a block from her home could become the president of the Illinois Council for Exceptional Children, the Council of Administrators of Special Education, and, in 2013, president of the Council for Exceptional Children.

These volunteer leadership opportunities contributed to my leadership philosophy of leading with heart and putting children and the families we serve first and foremost in our work. I continue to have a passion to support CEC as the premier organization of special education professionals.

– Christy Chambers Burke

icon quotation by Adrien Coquet from the Noun Project

In remembering the events of my fifty-plus years as a member of CEC, it’s not what I think about in terms of “why I give to CEC,” but what CEC has given me.

I began my special education career teaching on an emergency teaching credential while completing my state-approved credential at my University. I had a special day-class of students who were referred to at that time as EMR (Educable Mentally Retarded). During my first few weeks of teaching, my co-teacher told me about CEC and said it would be of value for me to join. The local Orange County (CA) Chapter was having its “Fall Round Up” and I chose to attend. He was right! I was thoroughly impressed with the members I met and welcomed the opportunity to get to know them. Over the years, they not only became mentors but also friends.

I joined CEC and was on the road to expanding my knowledge of how I could best serve my students. While completing my teaching credential as well as obtaining advanced degrees, CEC was an integral resource that helped me. I assumed new assignments in the field and eventually went into administration. As I continued in special education, I became involved in CEC as an officer in my local chapter, and then with the state association. I went on to become involved with national CEC, representing California in the governance structure of the Representative Assembly and then as a governor on the Executive Committee. I reached my ultimate goal when I was elected president. And at each step, CEC was contributing to my expertise in the field, giving me the “tools” to be successful. 

I didn’t think of it as “giving,” but as what I was receiving in return. Through CEC, I was able to interact with “experts” in the field as well as become aware of the impact of legislation on the field. I actually began my teaching prior to IDEA, so it was imperative that I knew how state and federal legislation would impact the field. CEC provided me with the opportunities to make those connections. I learned that many of the special education leaders in the state were fellow CEC members and a resource to me.

Now, in retirement, I can look back on a very satisfying career in special education. And at each step in my career, CEC was there for me, giving—and I was receiving. 

– Gerald “Jerry” Hime

Last Updated:  31 March, 2022

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