Virginia Tech, as a land-grant university whose mission includes dedication to improving quality of life in the Commonwealth of Virginia, is host to the Virginia Department of Education’s Training and Technical Assistance Center (T/TAC).

This center, based in the Virginia Tech School of Education, provides high-quality professional learning and technical assistance designed to help schools better serve students with disabilities from birth through the age of 22.

“Our ultimate goal is to bring research-based and promising practices to students in our regions, leading to successful graduation, employment, and full participation in their communities, regardless of disability,” said Patricia Bickley, founding director of T/TAC at Virginia Tech.

Across the commonwealth, T/TACs respond to schools’ requests for supporting the access of students with disabilities to the general curriculum, maximizing student learning in the least restrictive environment possible, and helping students achieve the knowledge and skills needed to make progress toward graduation.

As their core function, the commonwealth’s eight regional centers help the Department of Education achieve the goals of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and address opportunity gaps for students with disabilities in kindergarten through high school.  

“T/TAC at Virginia Tech has maintained a presence in our region for more than 30 years, resulting in long-standing relationships with school divisions,” said Lora Beeken, co-director of the center. “These relationships allow us to work together, shoulder-to-shoulder, to improve outcomes for students with disabilities.”

Educators participate in “Differentiation Through Guided Reading” professional development.
Educators participate in “Differentiation Through Guided Reading” professional development training sponsored by T/TAC at Virginia Tech.

The center uses a dynamic technical assistance process to meet needs in Southwest Virginia, particularly in Superintendent’s Regions 6 and 7, which are distinguished by their rural nature and lack of readily available resources to support professionals and families.

Support for Regions 6 and 7 includes inclusive practices and co-teaching; coordination of activities for Community of Leaders in Autism with the Autism Center for Excellence; and help in implementing assistive technology principles to enable students with disabilities to gain access to the general curriculum. (A more complete list of services appears below.)

T/TAC at Virginia Tech provides both virtual and on-site assistance, information services, and ongoing professional education and outreach to the 34 school divisions it serves. Any educational team serves may request services through the center’s website.

“Our T/TAC serves the entire region by supporting educators, students, and families with high-quality resources, ongoing professional learning, and impactful outreach,” said Kristin Gehsmann, director of the School of Education. “Through their work, the professionals in T/TAC at Virginia Tech are transforming both lives and the region by advancing educational opportunities and outcomes for children and youth with disabilities.”

The Virginia Tech School of Education is a global catalyst for individual and social transformation through education, applied research, and advocacy.

Written by Sharon Stidham

Support of Students with Disabilities in Southwest Virginia

T/TAC at Virginia Tech offers a range of services throughout Southwest Virginia, including:

  • Support for inclusive practices and co-teaching
  • Coordination of efforts with the Virginia Department of Education for implementation of the Advanced Studies Diploma
  • Coordination of activities for Community of Leaders in Autism (CoLA) with the Autism Center for Excellence (ACE)
  • Tier 3 behavior supports, which include embedded professional development for division teams to develop and sustain positive behavior support practices aimed at improving individual student behavior and school climate and reducing suspensions and expulsions
  • Focused assistance to support access and successful application of Alternative and Augmentative Communication principles
  • Technical assistance in the successful implementation of Universal Design for Learning and assistive technology principles to help students with disabilities gain access to the general curriculum
  • Targeted support of teachers and other education practitioners with intensive support needs, including those in more isolated areas of the region
  • Community-of-practice support for building administrators who may be responsible for special education and behavior support in their schools
  • The support of Strategic Instruction Model (SIM) professional developers, who provide statewide leadership in the Virginia SIM Network and the Virginia Leadership Institute for SIM professional developers
  • Facilitation of access to the Virginia Center for Transition Innovations and other resources to support positive post-secondary outcomes for students with disabilities in Regions 6 and 7
  • Coordination of activities with the Virginia Department of Education and the Family Engagement Network for parent resource center coordinators, family liaisons, and other family engagement specialists
  • Coordination of efforts with the Virginia Department of Education for implementation of the Virginia Essentialized Standards of Learning (VESOL)
  • Coordination of activities in early-childhood special education with an emphasis on quality classroom interactions and inclusive practices with the Virginia Preschool Initiative
  • Activities to support the multisensory phonics technique with Orton Gillingham training, coaching, and facilitation of a community of learning
  • Training in Fusion Reading through a highly structured course designed to teach high-leverage reading strategies to increase student motivation, engagement, and reading achievement in grades 6 through 12
  • Facilitator training in Literacy Essentials for Teachers of Reading and Spelling (LETRS)
  • A large library of print materials and an extensive inventory of assistive technology and alternative and augmentative communication resources available for loan to practitioners in Regions 6 and 7