Master IEP Coach® Spotlight: Alexis Welch
Meet Alexis Welch, self-contained teacher and Master IEP Coach® from Georgia!
"It's easy to feel lonely in Special Education, so I'm happy I found the Master IEP Coach® Mentorship where we can all come together to talk strategies in Special Education! If this had been around when I first started teaching, those first few years wouldn't have been so rough. Now I can't wait to help pay it forward to new teachers coming out of college!"
How did Alexis end up at an IEP table?
A self-proclaimed "Special Ed Nerd", Alexis Welch has been teaching in a self-contained special education for 10 years, but started as a paraprofessional. She's taught grades K-12 in the moderate-profound intellectual disability and autism settings and is currently teaching high schoolers with autism. AAC is her love language as she loves implementing, talking, and learning about assistive technology. Like many of her Master IEP Coach® colleagues, Alexis LOVES IEP meetings.
How did the Master IEP Coach® Mentorship change her view of Special Education?
In our community, one question comes up a lot: What is something you wish you would've known before your first IEP meeting? If you've never been through an educator preparation program at a university, you might not believe that most teachers walk into their first classrooms with very little real-world training. For special education, training programs often give the impression that IEP teams will truly build the entire IEP together in a single meeting. So Alexis, like many before her, walked into her first meeting practically empty-handed, expecting that the team would be bringing their own formal data and input to include in the plan. She didn't know that most of that building was to come directly from her PRIOR to the meeting! It was eye-opening and "a little embarrassing."
Alexis's experience in the Mentorship taught her how much she could add to her students' IEPs from the other providers at the table, especially the general education teachers. "The Mentorship has really pushed me to work more closely with the other service providers: PT, speech, and even the general education teachers. I want to get more input from them about what they see in their class, how is the child interacting with their peers?" There's so much input that a general education can bring to the conversation; they see peer-to-peer interactions, how modifications and accommodations are being met, and what kinds of experiences the student is having in that inclusive environment.
"I want to foster those relationships and let them know they are valued; the parents care what you have to say!"
Who Does Alexis Like to Work With?
Alexis currently works with fellow teachers in her district, helping other self-contained special education teachers not feel intimidated and overwhelmed by the IEP process. There's so much to learn from her colleagues. She also loves working with the medical-fragile and severe-profound population, because many times these families feel limited in their child's expected outcomes.
"I firmly believe every child can do something."
No matter the child's ability levels, Alexis strives to find appropriate goals to add to their IEP to better prepare them for life after the IEP. Are we working on fine motor skills? Great! Let's master pinching and grasping! She wants to put a fresh spin on it and let parents see, "Your kid can do things, it may just look a little different." We can get them there and it may take baby steps, but "you don't have to eat the elephant all at once."
What's Alexis's Favorite Part of the IEP?
The Needs Section of Present Levels because that's where everything else comes from. She also likes to focus on the Student Supports where accommodations live! This is where you can really get creative in what can be an accommodation. If the student needs toileting assistance, that's an accommodation that helps them get through their school day. "Once we're in the bathroom, what kind of support do they need? Do they need visuals? Do they need hand over hand assistance?" says Alexis.
Have you ever tried writing your IEPs backward? That's what Alexis does! She starts with the end goals in mind, asking the parents first, "What is your goal for your child after high school? What do you want their life to look like once they graduate?" Once she knows what the vision is, she reverse engineers the steps needed in the IEP to support that goal for the future! This is what keeps the IEPs fun and interesting for her.
What are Alexis's plans for her future as a Master IEP Coach®?
She would love to be able to establish a network of local self-contained teachers to meet monthly and build their skills together to better the self-contained experience for students in her district, or wider, in Georgia. She believes that by supporting the skills of and building relationships with the teachers in her area, she can make a larger impact on the lives of special education students, rather than trying to help individual families, one at a time.
Alexis Wants you to Know...
"IEPs do not have to feel so intimidating and they can be easy. You just have to be creative, It's just a plan to help drive that child's education. Even though it is a binding legal document, think of it as a road map and it will open up more of a dialogue for finding ways to get creative and help this child become the best version of themselves."
A little more about Alexis...
Alexis Welch is currently located in Georgia. In Alexis's spare time, she loves to travel, sew, try new restaurants, and go to sporting events and concerts. The beach is her happy place and she loves all things rainbow and peacock!
Get Connected with Alexis:
Pinterest and Instagram - @thepeachyspeducator
Click here to join us at the next Master IEP Coach® Mentorship!