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APSU professor joins Council for Exceptional Children board

Dr. Allison Oliver(Posted Wednesday, April 5, 2023)

CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. – The Eriksson College of Education’s Dr. Allison Oliver, a first-year assistant professor at Austin Peay State University, will serve on the executive board of the Tennessee Council for Exceptional Children (CEC). Oliver, who teaches special education courses, will serve as the membership services chair.

The Council for Exceptional Children is an organization of educators and other like-minded community members interested in supporting special education and gifted students and their families, with an emphasis on teaching best practices. The organization participates in policy and advocacy efforts and provides professional development events for members. More than 30,000 people are involved in CEC nationally.

“The standards that we teach special education teacher candidates are governed under CEC,” Oliver said. “They’re the national standard for special education.”

While new to the Tennessee chapter, Oliver has a longstanding history with CEC. She also has much in common with Austin Peay students. Oliver originally began her career as an assistant teacher in a fourth grade classroom in Mississippi. A growing number of Austin Peay students now begin their teaching journey as paraprofessionals in the Grow Your Own Teacher Residency program. Oliver worked as a special education paraprofessional for seven years, before working as a middle school teacher and then a positive behavior specialist for one of the largest school districts in Mississippi. Her professional background helps her better connect with students at Austin Peay.

“I like the students because they're teachable,” Oliver said. “They are eager. They're hungry to learn.”

Oliver uses her experience with CEC to help students see the bigger picture beyond the district where they plan to teach.

“You need to know what's happening on a national scale in education,” she said. “Be courageous to be that advocate in the classroom, even if it's your first year. Speak up for what you know is [a] best practice and learn from others.”

As the Tennessee CEC membership services chair, Oliver aims to encourage increased participation from teacher candidates, as well as provide resources and workshops for students, faculty and area teachers.  

Membership is open to undergraduate and graduate students, educational professionals, paraeducators and parents. The organization also offers different special interest divisions and affinity groups for its members.

“I’m really involved in behavior and teacher education programs,” Oliver said. “Those are the fields that I like, as well as evidence-based practices … One of the greatest things about CEC is there’s something there for everybody – parents and teachers. Any stakeholder, any general education teacher or teacher candidate, is going to benefit from it, because it's teaching you best practices information.”

Oliver sees her connection to CEC as valuable for the Austin Peay community because it allows her to advocate for rural education teachers and provide support for current teacher candidates.

“I would like to be the voice for the rural area and make sure that we're getting the resources and the tools we need to advocate for our students at Austin Peay,” she said.

According to Education Week, 14.5% of U.S. students in the 2020-21 school year were special education students. In addition, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a 4% growth for special education teachers by 2031. To help meet these needs, Austin Peay offers four degree programs and one certificate program for students interested in becoming special education teachers. 

For more information about the Tennessee CEC, visit tennessee.exceptionalchildren.org/. Those interested in learning more about membership may contact Oliver at olivera@apsu.edu.

To learn more about the special education teaching degrees at Austin Peay, visit apsu.edu/education/programs-of-study.