Module Five: Teachers As Implementers

This module focuses on teachers as implementers of the I’m Determined vision and goals. In the video clips and programs shared here, elementary and secondary teachers and administrators describe the impact of the project on the development of self-determination skills in students with disabilities and what they have learned from being involved with the project. Special and general education teachers and administrators featured in the videos, share their perspective or “aha moments” related to student involvement in the IEP process, creating an inclusive and caring school culture, student centered instruction, the development of student self-awareness, and helping students learn more about and appreciate themselves as individuals.

Also included in this module are helpful resources for teachers and articles that address the importance of fostering the development of self-determination and disability awareness in students with disabilities. To view more current video clips and programs about implementing self-determination, please visit the “Educator” tab of this website and scroll down to the menu of video clips.

South River Elementary School

South River Elementary School in Rockingham County, VA has been involved in the I’m Determined Project for several years. South River started using I’m Determined materials with students receiving special education services, but as a result of the school’s inclusive environment, they quickly started incorporating the I’m Determined strategies with all 4th and 5th graders.

Two of the key players in the success at South River Elementary School are Assistant Principal, Ashley Houff and Special Education teacher, Jeanette Toohey.


Alleghany County “Aha” Reflections

Educators in Alleghany County joined the I’m Determined project in the fall of 2010.  Two members of the self-determination team, Melanie and LeeAnn, share about their involvement and experiences this year.  Melanie is a special education teacher and LeeAnn is a speech pathologist.

Chesterfield County Public Schools “Aha” Moments

Chesterfield County Public Schools was one of the original pilot sites of the I’m Determined Project when it began in 2006. Four teachers share their stories about how this project has changed the way they work with and teach students.

Bridget Manasco, Beth Davis, Kelsie Myers, and Kirt Studevant are special education teachers.

More Aha Moments

In the following clips, teachers from Franklin and Rockingham counties discuss “Aha moments’ related to self-determination and student participation in the IEP.”

Helpful Resources for Teachers:

To read more about using the Self-Determined Learning Model of Instruction with your students, read Promoting Causal Agency: The Self-Determined Learning Model of Instruction


Listed below are articles that address disability awareness and the development of self-determination skills in students.

Article 1: Understanding Disability

Abernathy, T., Taylor, S. (2009). Teacher Perceptions of Students’ Understanding of Their Own Disability. Teacher Education and Special Education, 32(2), 121-136.

Abstract from article: How do you discuss disability with your students?  What do you think they understand about disability?  This study examines teacher’s perceptions of what students understand about their disabilities and the discussions and activities they use to help students understand a learning disability.  Findings reveal that despite training and prep in the areas of disability awareness and self-determination, some teachers use jargon and euphemisms and often not appropriately implementing self-determination activities.

Article 2: A Functional Model of Self-Determination

Wehmeyer, M. (1999). A functional model of self-determination: Describing development and implementing instruction. Focus on Autism and Other Developmental Disabilities, 14(1), 53-62.

Abstract from article: In this article, Wehmeyer (1999) “describes a functional model of self-determination as a dispositional characteristic of individuals. This model has been used to conduct research to examine the impact of self-determination on the lives of people with developmental and other disabilities, to describe the development of self-determination, and to design interventions to promote self-determination for people with and without disabilities.” (p. 54).

Article 3: Fostering Self-Determination in Elementary and Middle Schools

Stang, K., Carter, E., Lane, K., Pierson, M. (2009). Perspectives of general and special educators on fostering self-determination in elementary and middle schools. The Journal of Special Education, 43, 94-106.

Abstract from article: In the attached Stang, et al. (2009) article, the researchers find that “many youth with disabilities lack critical self-determination skills and that such deficits may be a contributing factor to disappointing post-school outcomes…” Subsequently, “educators and researchers have called for increased attention to promoting student self-determination in the early grades. The authors queried 891 elementary and middle school teachers regarding the extent to which they valued and provided instruction in seven self-determination skill domains. Educators generally perceived self-determination to be an important curricular priority, and the majority reported teaching self-determination skills at least sometimes in their classrooms. Special educators’ ratings of overall importance were significantly higher than those of general educators. Middle school teachers reported providing self-determination instruction more frequently than elementary school teachers. These findings lend additional support to calls for promoting self-determination within the general curriculum in the earlier grades.” (p. 94)