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The IEP Project: Using Research to Create Strength-Based, Whole Child IEPs

The IEP Project: Using Research to Create Strength-Based, Whole Child IEPs
March 23, 2023 2:00 PM - 3:00 PM EDT
1 hour
Grade Level Grades K-12


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Writing a strengths-based IEP requires a shift in mindset. Instead of focusing on deficits, teachers can examine students’ strengths, and how those strengths could be used to support educational goals. Strengths can include anything that impacts learning: academic and cognitive abilities; areas where students excel or display passion; as well as students’ social and emotional skills and background experiences. But what do we need to make that mindset shift? How do we ensure that we are looking at IEPs through a lens of racial equity?

In this 2023 Share My Lesson Virtual Conference session, we will touch on the importance of strength-based IEPs; the connection with learner variability; the intersection of race and learning disabilities in IEPs; and, the power of recognizing the whole child. We also will showcase the IEP Project’s teacher template, produced by a team of expert teachers. The goal is to provide educators with a guide, easy to integrate into their IEP work, designed to create strength-based IEPs so students can meet their potential in school and beyond.

Professional Credit

Available for one-hour of PD credit. A certificate of completion will be available for download at the end of your session that you can submit for your school's or district's approval.

Share My Lesson is a New York State Education Department-approved provider for Continuing Teacher and Leader Education (CTLE) requirements, an Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) approved professional development provider, and a Texas Education Agency (TEA) approved professional development provider.


Jessica Jackson is director of professional learning for the Learner Variability Project at Digital Promise where she designs professional learning for educators that helps them address the needs of the whole learner through research-based practices.  Jessica has over 20 years of experience in education that reflects her passion for creativity, curiosity, leadership, and social justice. As a New Leader alum, she founded an integrated arts elementary school in Memphis, TN where she designed a pathways program that helped students explore their own curiosity and creativity. As Director of Academics, she designed instructional systems, coached leaders, and organized full-scale professional development for a network of schools at Capstone Education Group.  She has her Masters in Education from Pace University and her undergraduate degree from the University of Richmond. 

Barbara Pape, senior director for the Learner Variability Project at Digital Promise, led a three-year national survey on learner variability and teacher practice; wrote the paper defining learner variability; hosts a monthly webinar series; and co-developed The IEP Project. Previously, she worked in policy analysis and communications for nonprofits and in the U.S. Senate. Barbara has written for numerous publications and was editor of the first electronically delivered education newsletter, the Daily Report Card. She also produced the Teaching & Learning conference for the National Board; worked in the communications office for the AFT during President Al Shankar's tenure; and headed up government relations for the City Colleges of Chicago. As a first-generation college student, she earned an EdM at Harvard in reading and literacy and completed coursework toward a PhD at the Curry School at the University of Virginia. Barbara launched her career as a middle school teacher in Pittsburgh.

Samantha Schmitt has been a lifelong Pittsburgher and educator in the region for the past 14 years. Growing up in the Monroeville area with her parents and brother, Samantha has always dreamed of becoming a teacher. Samantha is a graduate of Duquesne University, obtaining degrees in Elementary Education, Special Education for grades K-12, and Administration K-12. Beginning her career in The Duquesne City School District, she has served as a general education classroom teacher, learning support teacher, Instructional Coach for Science and STEM, and Dean of Students. She credits her years at Duquesne helping develop her skills and passion for education. Currently, Samantha serves as the Coordinator for Equity, Inclusion, & Justice, as well as the Director of Student Services for grades K-5 at The Falk Laboratory School of the University of Pittsburgh. Within the role, she has the opportunity to work with students, faculty, and families to ensure equitable learning opportunities are available to all, as well as cultivate the celebration of all identities. She is enrolled in the EdD program at The University of Pittsburgh, where she is pursuing an Educational Doctorate in Social and Comparative Analysis in Education. Samantha resides with her husband and step-children in Butler County. In her spare time, Samantha enjoys spending time with her family, trying new restaurants in the Pittsburgh area, and reading.



Digital Promise IEP Project_ Share My Lesson.pdf

March 23, 2023
1.4 MB
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1 Review
I look forward to applying the information and the strength-based perspective to developing a more useful and motivating IEP for my students.
March 24, 2023