We are so proud of our 2020 class of Fund for Teachers Fellows and believe Teacher Appreciation Week is the perfect time to begin a weekly series that introduces! Through individual profiles, as well as those focusing on themes these exemplary teachers will pursue in the summer of 2021, you will appreciate these Fellows commitment to their profession, students and school communities.
Today, in conjunction with Asian Pacific Heritage Month, we introduce Joey Cumagun, a special education teacher with the Adult Transition Community Based Instruction (CBI) team at Deer Valley High School in Antioch, CA. Joey currently he has also taught Special Day Class K-3, SDC 6-8 and autism intensive classrooms. A teacher for 32 years, his awards include Mary Allan Teacher Fellow 2019, National History Day Fellow 2016-17, Special Olympics Northern California Teacher of the Season 2015.
Joey enrolled in the Ateneo de Manila University with the intention of pursuing a degree in Engineering; however, after volunteering as a tutor his junior year, he switched his major to Education and started teaching social studies in a general education setting. After meeting his late wife who was a Special Education teacher, Joey added a second certification in this sphere, as well.
In designing his fellowship, Joey recognized a gap in the transition of his students from school to life post-graduation. He teaches 15 students (primary eligibility are (8 students with primary diagnosis of autism, 5 intellectual disability, 1 other health impairment (cerebral palsy), 1 with specific learning disability). Their learning goals cover:
- functional academics, which is how to apply reading and math skills in the real world such as following a calendar or reading a bus schedule
- appropriate communication and social skills to successfully navigate their community, and
- vital employment skills which is the primary rationale of this fellowship.
“As important a goal of getting a job is after high school is to my students, none of them actually gets employed after graduation,” explained Joey. “All my students end up in sheltered, non-work settings. In the state of California, only one out of every four workers with developmental disabilities are working in a community employment settings (according to CA Transition Alliance). On the national level, while unemployment rate is at an all time low, there is no evident increase in the rate of employment of people with disabilities. In my constant effort to find how I can best prepare students with special needs for employment, I researched top companies and best countries that employ people with disabilities. Then I discovered about Omron Taiyo in Japan with a long and reputable history of employing people with disabilities.”Joey will use his Fund for Teachers grant to tour two Omron Taiyo manufacturing factories where the majority of employees have a disability to design a system for a workplace (simulated in the classroom) that is both conducive and motivating for students with disabilities.
“With this fellowship I will be able to see for myself a work flow system designed for workers with disabilities that I would never see in a textbook or curriculum,” said Joey. “In addition, I will learn more effective ways how to instill positive work values in the classroom, learn ways that Omron implements visual materials, automated signals, and workflow design to support workers with disabilities, and document methodologies and use of Japanese technology that I can bring to my classroom.”
Upon his return, Joey envisions a six-step plan for applying all he experiences in Japan:
- Create workstations that incorporate workflow systems observed at Omron
- Implement technology that supports work skills performance
- Teach and practice positive work values, such as the attitude of punctuality
- Introduce guided practice lessons that parallel work designs seen at the Omron factory
- Present a training session during the school’s professional development day and provide handouts and support to
teachers who are willing to implement whatever they have learned, and
- Network with community organizations and businesses and policy makers by promoting my students
Joey’s ultimate goal is to see his students enter the workforce through this network, as opposed to attending adult day programs (bowling, library visits, etc.) in which most students remain for the rest of their lives.
“Essentially, the goal of school is to learn ‘skills to pay the bills,’ said Joey, “but in civic terms, the end outcome of education is to create productive citizens in the community both local and global. This fellowship will help develop a good success story for the community’s effort to engage students in real world learning. This fellowship will be particularly special because it caters to the needs of the special needs population, sending an inspirational message to the students and the school community that all students can succeed, no matter the challenges.”