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Education Students Prep for Future Professions in Nation’s Capital During Legislative Conference

This article was originally published on Stephen F. Austin State University’s website and is reprinted with permission.

Nine students in Stephen F. Austin State University’s Department of Education Studies traveled to Washington, D.C., in early June to learn firsthand what it felt like to advocate for their future professions to the U.S. Congress during AACTE’s Washington Week.

Students attending the AACTE’s legislative conference engage in advocacy training and learn about the legislative process for public education. Walking the hallowed halls in which our nation’s representatives decide how best to guide our democracy, they also meet with U.S. representatives, senators, and their staffers, and tour historical sites across Washington.

“Because of my experiences during Washington Week, I now know that my thoughts and opinions can help positively change the world of education,” said Katie Jones, SFA senior interdisciplinary studies major from Alto. “Students gain knowledge and experiences that will shape them into teachers who can properly advocate for themselves and their future students.”

Conference attendees had the opportunity to discuss education policy with congressional staffers, which was an enriching opportunity that some students did not expect.

“Something that will always stick with me is our meetings with the staffers. I was very surprised when I learned that we scheduled meetings to advocate for different policies and it was not just a simple meet and greet,” said Emma Halliburton, senior deaf education major from League City. “It felt empowering to go to Congress and speak on real-life situations. It was great that we got to put what we learned in lectures to work at the end of the trip.”

The students also toured Gallaudet University, the country’s first school for deaf education. While there, they learned about the university’s mission of ensuring the intellectual and professional advancement of deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals through American Sign Language and English.

“One of the things I looked forward to most was touring Gallaudet University,” Halliburton added. “I am majoring in deaf education, and I was excited to finally go to a place that I had learned so much about.”

This is the second time SFA students have attended the conference coordinated by Jannah Nerren, Ph.D., professor, and chair of the Department of Education Studies. This year, Lindsey Kennon, Ed.D., coordinator for the deaf and hard of hearing teacher preparation program and assistant chair for special education programs, helped facilitate the trip.

Students must go through a rigorous application process to attend the conference, starting with a faculty member nomination. Paired with a letter of recommendation and completion of a personal essay, the application process itself begins developing professional skills students can use while learning from the Washington Week experience.

“This is a fast-paced, busy three days with a variety of experiences,” Nerren said. “Students should be interested in learning more about education-related policy and how educators can impact the future of their profession by learning more about legislative advocacy.”

Hear more about the trip’s lasting impact on the upcoming episode of the Department of Education Studies’ Axe Ed a Question podcast, which will be available for listening June 27 on Spotify and on their webpage. In the episode, hosts Alyssa Landreneaux, assessment coordinator and lecturer of education studies, and Sarah Straub, Ed.D., associate professor of education studies, interview this year’s participants to learn about their conference experiences.

For more information on SFA’s Department of Education Studies, visit their website.

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