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Erla Yanes

Inclusion Interview

SPED 425

Jean Danneker from Winona State University

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Abstract

The interview was conducted with a former special education professor at Winona state

University, Dr. Jean Danneker. Her credentials include a Bachelor of Science degree in

Elementary Education and Learning Disabilities, a Master’s degree in Emotional Behavioral

Disorders, and a Ph. D. in Special Education. She taught students in elementary schools for

eighteen years and taught Special Education majors at the university level for seventeen years.

During her time at Winona State she also had active roles in her department. Dr. Danneker was a

chairperson of the department, a club supervisor for Student Council for Exceptional Children

(SCEC), and the leading professor for a reading instruction course. During her work at the

elementary school level, beginning in 1986, she supported the inclusion in general education

classrooms for every student on her caseload. Jean is now retired, but still volunteers her time

teaching religion at her local church. Clearly, she has passion for teaching; a quality that good

teachers obtain.

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Summary of Interview

On September 21st I was given the opportunity to meet with Dr. Jean Danker to discuss

matters about inclusion. During our time together, Dr. Danneker gave insightful perspectives

about the history of inclusion, her personal experiences, success, and conflicts when

implementing inclusion.

After thirty-five years in education, I asked Dr. Danneker what inspired her to get into the

field of education. Jean stated, “Being told I should be a teacher”. What she meant, constant

verbal praises in her strengths helped her realize the skills she obtained to help children. “I have

a passion for teaching and kids’ learning. This passion was also influenced by my father. My dad

was a good role-model, and always helped with my homework. He was always interested in what

I was learning, even though he did not have much education background, or was considered

“scholarly””. Driven by her passion, Jean states her former occupations were rewarding,

especially her former position at Winona State University. “Teaching special education at the

university was more social learning. My goal for students was to feel good about their learning

and themselves. That’s why I went into special education. You can teach about 80% of the

students in the general education classroom.”

Special education teachers are advocates for students to receive the appropriate education

they need to succeed. Furthermore, our goal as a special education teacher is to keep the students

in the least restrictive environment, to be inclusive of students with disabilities in the general

education classroom. “Inclusion does not just happen. It is enacted daily by particular people in

particular contexts learning to live and work together meaningfully” (Valle & Conner, 64). In

other words, it takes passionate advocates, like Jean Danneker, to successfully and appropriately

implement inclusion for students to succeed. It follows then, “What does inclusion look like?”

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Jean stated, “It depends on the school and the teacher. In situations of coteaching, the general

education teacher is the main “driver” and the special education teacher assists.”. However, Dr.

Danneker brought ideas to include all students for all abilities. “Students pay attention to that.

They listen to who I would refer too, so I gave suggestions for all”. Inclusion to Dr. Danneker is

unity. “The practice of inclusion is wildly accepted but it actually needs to happen. The idea is

known to all educators, but it needs to be studied and researched more in depth”. To illustrate,

inclusion is not new. In 1986 Dr. Danneker was implementing practices of inclusion.

Furthermore, she would assist students and teachers to do inclusion. If Dr. Danneker was

practicing inclusion in 1986, what was her experience like when she was in school? “I was in

Catholic school. There was not much state and federal regulation. The Curriculum was locally

owned. IDEA was not a law yet. My mother said it wasn’t polite to talk about others with

disabilities. Students who were cognitively able to keep up were in the classrooms. When they

would get sick, tutors would be sent to their homes. People with developmental and severe

cognitive disability were placed in institution. I found out years later that my friend had a sister

with down syndrome, she was institutionalized. Kids who would wiggle a lot, today may be

diagnosed with ADHD, got yelled at a lot or ignored.

The idea of inclusion was not well implemented when Jean was in school. However, when

she became an educator she advocated for inclusion for her students. Seeing both perspectives,

do you think inclusion is beneficial for all students? “Yes! Yes! Yes! Kids learn communication

skills, tolerance, and patience with others. It does not take away from the general education kids.

All kids have talents. Be creative to make it work for kids.” With that being said, I agree with Dr.

Danneker’s philosophy about inclusion. Inclusion is for all students of all abilities. All students

can learn from one another, as they each bring unique talents in their learning styles.

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Connections to course content

Inclusion is allowing a student with a disability to be immersed into the general education

with other peers whom do not have a disability. Inclusion is also implementing all teaching styles

and utilizing student strengths for all to succeed. In the same way, it’s also allowing all students,

with or without a disability, to learn through all forms of learning styles, multiple intelligences.

Inclusion also talks about the idea of least restrictive environment (LRE). Most often, this

term is correlated with inclusion. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) does

not require inclusion. Instead, the law requires that students with disabilities be educated in the

least restrictive environment to meet their unique needs. However, IDEA proposes that the least

restrictive environment begins with the placement in a general education classroom (Wisconsin

Education Association Council)”. In other words, students should be placed in the most

appropriate placement according to their unique learning needs. “How can you expect me to be

productive citizen of society if you segregate me” (Including Samuel). If students are in self-

contained classrooms, who is going to be the role model? (Troy Eilis). If there is a room for

special education, people expect students to go there (Including Samuel). Special education is a

service, not a place (Amy Olsen).

As illustrated by Dr. Danneker, the quality of inclusion depends on the school and

teacher. In her experiences, inclusion was not present in her catholic school, then some, then

implemented when she was educator. Other factors, excuses, that influence schools and

inclusion are resources, student attitudes, teacher philosophies, parent involvement, social class,

and demographic of teachers (Amy Olsen). Yet another factor that affects the quality of inclusion

mainstreaming students with unique learning needs. By mainstreaming students, one must earn

their way to the general education classroom based on ableism. Ableism is the belief that able

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bodies people are superior to those with a disability (Valle & Conner). We live in society

constructed for able-bodies. Mainstream is negotiation of academic and social demands without

assistance. Whereas inclusion assumes student can benefit socially and academically from

learning in the general education classroom, even if goals are different and supports are given.

As illustrated above, inclusion is not a new idea. Jean was practicing inclusion in 1996.

Unfortunately, most schools try to implement but still need an abundance of guidance to

correctly include all students into the classrooms. You can change legislation but not attitude.

Reflecting on Dr. Danneker practices of inclusion, I believe she tried her best. She stated,

inclusion needs to be studied more, meaning educators must understand what, why, and how we

should implement inclusion. Perhaps educators like herself, influenced other educators to do the

same. As an aspiring special education teacher, I will do my best to appropriate implement

inclusion for all learners so they may succeed in the 21 st century.

Reflection Responses

In this section, I will provide insight on how the interview felt, the new perspectives I

encountered, and changes to the interview process for the analysis of this piece.

Having rapport with Dr. Danneker made the interview have a natural flow when asking

questions. In the same way, because of the comfortableness between Dr. Danneker and I, I had to

remind myself to keep a professional attitude about the interview. Furthermore, I also had to

maintain natural, not bias, when she stated her beliefs. While both Dr. Danneker and I have

similar beliefs about inclusion, our experiences are different. Inclusion is not a new concept, but

the quality of inclusion practices has changed. In Dr. Danneker’s experience, thee were

institutions. Thankfully such practices are outlawed. However, there are still methods of

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separating individuals with disabilities from the public-school systems. There are specialized

autism therapy centers, private schools, charter and Montessori schools. Such organizations only

include individuals who meet the criteria for services, while others can deny students in

enrollment. Lastly, to obtain even more qualitive information and perspective I could have more

interview more individuals on the matter of inclusion. By doing so, I may better understand why

individuals dismiss inclusion, what are obstacles and excuses for such motives.

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Reference Page

Danneker, J. Personal Communication. September 21, 2018.

Ellis, T. (2018) [Lecture]. August – September 2018.

Olsen. A. (2018) [Lecture]. Augest - Septmber 2018.

Habib, D. Including Samuel. Retrieved September 25, 2018

Valle, J. W., &Connor, D. J. (2011). Rethinking disability: A Disability Studies Approach to

Inclusive Practices. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.

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Interview questions

What first made you interested in education?

What is most rewarding about your occupation?

What does an inclusion classroom look like today?

How did inclusion look like when you were in school?

Do you think inclusion is beneficial for all students in the classroom?

How did the school you were working for demonstrate inclusion?

Does every student who is receiving special education services need a professional or education

assistant?

What are some conflicts that arise when implementing inclusion?

Do you think students learn best from their peers in general education classrooms or from adults

bringing additional support?

Should a student leave the room if their behavior is distracting other students?

Is inclusion easier to implement at a certain time in the student’s educational career?

Is pulling students out of classroom more effective for their learning?