A Lasting Impact

A SPED alumna travels to Ukraine for a conference and makes on those around her.

Sadie Hodges, an alumna of the five-year Special Education program and a current special education teacher at Henrico County Public Schools, received a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to travel to Ukraine with Dr. Karen Feathers, Assistant Professor in Special Education and Professional Studies Autism Certificate Coordinator.

Sadie HodgesLast semester, Dr. Feathers invited me on a trip with her to Ukraine to present research about special education and inclusive environments to progressive teachers who educate primary school-age students with diverse needs in inclusive settings,” Hodges explains. “Over spring break, Dr. Feathers, Dr. Scarrow, Payton Vernier, and I attended a conference in Ukraine at Rivne Humanitarian University where I was able to co-present with Dr. Feathers. It was an incredible and humbling experience.“

Rivne is located about four hours from Kiev. Although grateful for the chance to present, Sadie could feel herself growing nervous. 

“Everyone looked quite serious and rarely smiled. As I listened to Dr. Feathers present using a wealth of stories she had gathered over her years of teaching, I wondered what I could have to offer my audience. After all, I was just a grad student, with no classroom of my own. I hoped they would be receptive to what I had to say,” Sadie adds.

Sadie says that the knowledge exchanged between the team from the Longwood SPED and Rivne Humanitarian University was incredible. They were able to tour a recently established autism facility and Sadie was able to speak passionately on her role as a job coach with the Longwood LIFE program.

Both Sadie and Dr. Feathers were able to present their ongoing research into video modeling and prompting through their simulation lab at the Longwood LIFE center, something they have been able to implement in the Spring 2020 semester.

For Sadie, the five-year SPED program was the natural next step to complete her passion for special education. 

“My graduate program allowed me to delve deeper into my area of study by serving as the graduate assistant and a supervisor/coordinator for Longwood LIFE, which ensured that I want to work with older students in high school who are transitioning onto the next stage in their lives,” Sadie says.

As for Longwood, Sadie has known since the fourth grade that it would be her alma mater. When she discovered her love for special education in high school, Longwood’s 5-year SPED program sealed the deal.

“My 4th-grade teacher, who I admired very much, attended Longwood so I knew that’s where I wanted to go as well. I decided on special education in high school when I became involved with a program called River City Buddy Ball, which is a nonprofit that allows you to assist children and young adults with disabilities in sports. My mind was set, and as soon as I found out about the 5-year SPED program, I was sold,” Sadie says

On her last day of sharing at Rivne, Sadie was struck when several of the Ukrainian teachers from the audience approached her and Peyton Vernier and shyly asked for photographs with them. She realized perhaps her words over the past few days had been more impactful than she had realized.

“I realized no matter how far you travel, there are people out there working for what you believe in too. Hearing their stories and learning from what they have done was eye-opening. They have come so far in advancements they have made in special education and continue to want to learn more which is incredible,” Sadie says. “The gratitude and appreciation they showed us really resonated with me. To embrace us with open arms and welcome our ideas really meant so much to me because I realized then that I have so much to offer because of what I have learned at Longwood and in my grad year.”