The Barbara A. McDonnell Education Conference: Early Childhood and Special Education

Creative Teaching and Learning: Making it Work for All

Wednesday, April 21, 2021
4:00 p.m. - 6:15 p.m.
Via Zoom, Molloy College
This Conference is FREE for All Participants

This conference made possible through the generosity of Eileen C. McDonnell

During these unprecedented times, meeting the academic and social-emotional needs of infants, toddlers, children and young adults with diverse needs is challenging and requires the creative collaboration of parents, teachers, school staff and administrators. The Barbara A. McDonnell Education Conference will be hosting a virtual event that includes a powerful keynote address from John D. Kemp, followed by an opportunity to choose one breakout workshop from one of four strands-early childhood, mental health, technology, and transitions. All workshops will be recorded and posted on our Conference website for future viewing. If you cannot attend the event please register in order to gain access to the Conference website.

Learning Objectives

  • Learning together by empowering families and professionals to advocate and to provide opportunities for individuals of diverse abilities to develop skills to fulfill their dreams.
  • Share strategies and tools to facilitate the learning process during these unprecedented times.
  • Make connections with people and programs to facilitate the pursuit and establishment of new opportunities.
  • Highlight mental health needs and provide opportunities to share strategies and tools.

Intended Audience

Early childhood through secondary teachers, school administrators, school psychologists, school social workers, school counselors, instructional assistants/aides, and parents.


This Conference will be conducted as a “live” online event using Zoom. It will be held at the date and time above. Access to the Conference using any type of device that has internet access is needed. You will receive the Zoom link to join the Conference within a week prior to the date of the program.

This Conference will be conducted as a "live" online event using Zoom. It will be held at the date and time above. Access to the Conference using any type of device that has internet access is needed. You will receive the Zoom link to join the Conference within a week prior to the date of the program.

Register for the Conference


Online registration is available at If you are unable to attend the event, please register to gain access to the Conference website.

Keynote Session: John D. Kemp President and CEO of The Viscardi Center

John D. Kemp, Esq. is President & CEO of The Viscardi Center. A renowned, global speaker and a person with a disability, he inspires others to achieve the impossible through knowledge, experience, vision, and persistence.

Mr. Kemp graduated from Georgetown University in 1971 and Washburn University School of Law in 1974. Mr. Kemp co-founded the American Association of People with Disabilities with Paul G. Hearne. In 2001. He co-authored Reflections from A Different Journey in 2004 with Dr. Stanley Klein, and the “Career and Workforce Development in the Arts for Youth with Disabilities” chapter of Handbook of Arts Education and Special Education Policy, Research, and Practices in 2018.

In March 2006, Mr. Kemp received the Henry B. Betts Award, widely regarded as America's highest honor for disability leadership and service. In December 2014, he received the Dole Leadership Prize and joined a prestigious group of international recipients including Nelson Mandela and two former U.S. Presidents.

Mr. Kemp also chairs Viscardi’s Project Accessible Oral Health, a global public-private partnership in pursuit of improved overall health and access for the disability community, as well as the e-Advisory Board of the Center’s new National Center for Disability Entrepreneurship dedicated to empowering innovative self-starters to self-employment success.

 Keynote Speaker John D. KempJohn D. Kemp



4:00 pm Welcoming Remarks
4:15 - 5:15 pm Keynote Session: John D. Kemp President and CEO of The Viscardi Center
Strands Early Childhood Mental Health Technology Transitions
5:15-6:15 pm
The Journey from Preschool to School Age in Special Education Parenting in the Pandemic Using Nearpod: Remote Teaching for Paras and Assistants Crash Course: 10 Tech Tools General Educators Need to Know for Their SPED Students The MOST Program
Fostering Language and Communication Through Shared Reading Social Emotional Learning Through Literature Best Practices for Hybrid and Remote Teaching and Learning Self Determination

Workshop Descriptions

Early Childhood

Workshop 1

The Journey from Preschool to School Age in Special Education Presented by Gina Callesano What is the connection between positive behavior supports and inclusivity for students with disabilities in the school setting? This workshop will provide a detailed description of the transition process from preschool to school-aged special education. Topics will include the role of the Committee, the Continuum of Services, and providing equitable access in the least restrictive environments. A focus will be placed on strategies for easing anxiety and making a smooth transition into Kindergarten. Areas of focus during the Kindergarten segment of the workshop will include incorporating positive behavior supports and exploring opportunities for inclusivity for all students. Gina Callesano M.Ed., SBL, SDL is the Chairperson for Preschool/Primary Special Education in the Farmingdale School District. Gina holds a master’s degree in Special Education and an Advanced Diploma in Educational Leadership. She is licensed by New York State as a school district and school building leader and has 20 years of experience working in the field of Special Education in various capacities. In her current role, Gina works to determine appropriate placements and services for preschool students with disabilities. She continues the preschool journey with students as they transition to school-age settings. Gina collaborates with building administrators, teachers, and service providers to build inclusive settings for all students with disabilities. At the forefront of her work is inclusivity for students with severe disabilities. Gina’s expertise in positive behavior supports and data-based instruction drive her passion to maximize outcomes for students with diverse learning and behavioral needs in the least restrictive environments.

Workshop 2

Fostering Language and Communication Through Shared Reading Presenters Christine Rivera and Karen Waddill Shared reading is an enjoyable, engaging activity that boosts early literacy, language, and communication development. During this session, we will differentiate between reading aloud and shared reading through discussion and video clips identifying the benefits for young learners as well as older learners with developmental delays. Topics ranging from developing shared reading routines to book selection will be interspersed with strategies to support reading, language, and communication development.

Christine Rivera, MS, CCC-SLP, ATP, Speech-Language Pathologist, works as a Communication Therapist at Cotting School. She currently serves students aged 3-22 in the areas of augmentative and alternative communication, articulation, expressive language, receptive language, and pragmatics. Christine holds a master’s degree in Speech-Language Pathology from Boston University and a certificate in Applied Behavior Analysis from Endicott College. She is certified in Speech-Language Pathology from American Speech, Language and Hearing Association as well as Assistive Technology Practitioner from Rehabilitation Engineering Society of North America. She is licensed by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education in Speech, Language and Hearing Disorders. Due to Christine’s commitment to graduate student supervision, she was appointed as Adjunct Clinical Instructor in the Department of Speech, Language and Hearing Sciences at Boston University’s Sargent College.

Karen M. Waddill, M.A. CCC-SLP ATP is the Interim Director of Student Services and the Director of Consulting at Cotting School. Cotting provides a continuum of services including a day school, residential program, consulting services and special events. In her current role, Karen provides administrative and clinical oversight of the day school and consulting programs. She is a certified member of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, holds licenses with the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and Division of Professional Licensure, and is certified as an Assistive Technology Professional through the Rehabilitative Engineering Society of North America. In addition to her work at Cotting, Karen is a long-standing visiting instructor in the Graduate and Continue Education Department at Fitchburg State University.

Mental Health

Workshop 3

Parenting in the Pandemic Presenter Kellyanne Brady
This workshop explores ways for parents to more effectively manage the stressors related to the pandemic. Topics include how to talk to kids of all ages about the pandemic, managing the various roles a parent has in the home during this time, how to effectively set boundaries at home, and how to practice self-care.

Dr. Kellyanne Brady, PhD, LMHC is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor in the state of New York and a Nationally Certified Counselor. Kellyanne has a wide variety of experience in clinical settings, including extensive experience working with individuals diagnosed with severe and persistent mental illness in inpatient and outpatient settings, as well as an online telehealth practice providing individual, couples, and family counseling. For the past several years, she has worked extensively with clinical counseling students and new counselors, providing clinical supervision and training. Additionally, Kellyanne has provided clinical training to medical and mental health professionals on a variety of topics including active listening and motivational interviewing.

Workshop 4

Social Emotional Learning Through Literature Presenter Kirsten Watts
This workshop looks at the value of using literature to meet the needs of students navigating through different social settings and emotions. The connection between learning from a fictional story and relating to real life is something powerful that students love and learn from and provides time for diving deep into literature. The value of this will also be explained on a level which parents can use and implement.

Kirsten Watts, MS, CPI is a Special Education Teacher. She is certified to teach Students with Disabilities from birth to grade two, first to sixth grade, and seventh to twelfth grade. Kirsten graduated from Molloy College with her BS/MS in Childhood Education and Special Education. She has worked with students with diverse learning needs during her time at Molloy’s Center for Autism and Child Development and Nassau BOCES. She continues to be a life-long learner to help sharpen her skills and to also gives back by instructing courses for Professional Development for teachers and future teachers.


Workshop 5

Using Nearpod: Remote Teaching for Paras and Assistants Presenter Shelly Caesar
Para-Professional/Educational Assistants Collaborating with Teachers during Remote and Live Learning to help meet the needs of all students. This workshop will give paraprofessionals/ ed assistants some technology skills so they can better assist the teachers and be included in the planning and implementing of lessons during remote and live lessons. We will focus on using the app Nearpod.

Shelley Caesar, MS Ed in Special Education, Advanced Diploma in Educational Leadership from Long Island University. Currently, she works for the New York City Department of Education, District 75, and as an Assistant Adjunct Professor for the City University of New York (CUNY).

Workshop 6

Crash Course: 10 Tech Tools General Educators Need to Know for Their SPED Students Nearpod: Remote Teaching for Paras and Assistants Presenters Alicia Zeh-Dean and Melissa Mulvey
The use of technology in general education classrooms was on an upward trend before the demands of remote and hybrid learning exploded technology use into every component of instruction. In this session, we will focus on tips, tricks, and tools to support students with diverse learning styles and needs. We will begin with an overview of educational technology versus assistive technology before moving on to demonstrations of the top 10 tools. Tools will focus on assisting students who struggle with writing, reading, and organization, as well as how adjustments to presentation style support a wide range of students. Participants are encouraged to have access to a Chromebook or computer with the Google browser to try out tools and strategies.

Alicia Zeh-Dean, MS, OTR/L joined Cotting Consulting, an assistive technology outreach program of the Cotting School, in 2016. Prior to joining the team, Alicia worked as an occupational therapist in the public schools providing evaluations and treatment for students from age 3 to 5th grade. She has experience working with a diverse student population including students in a school based ASD program, a special education preschool program and as part of the evaluation team for students transitioning from early intervention to public school services. Alicia also has experience working with children from birth to age 22 in a variety of settings including hospital-based day school, residential school, inpatient child rehabilitation and outpatient treatment. She has experience working with young adults and adults using assistive technology to promote independence throughout their day at school and at home. Alicia received her Master of Science in Occupational Therapy from Tufts University and her post graduate certificate in Assistive Technology from University of New Hampshire.

Melissa D. Mulvey, M.S. CCC-SLP ATP, CAGS, Senior Consulting Clinician, is a member of the faculty at Cotting School and works in the Cotting Consulting program to provide outreach services to students and teams in local school districts. She is also an adjunct faculty member at Fitchburg State University in the Graduate and Continuing Education Department and has been teaching there part-time for many years in both traditional face-to-face classes and classes with online components. Melissa's background as a speech-language pathologist brings a strong language foundation to her intervention with students and teams. Melissa has clients within local public schools where she provides direct assistive technology services to students as well as training to staff and families. In the college classroom, Melissa combines real-world experience with academic concepts to present relevant case studies and examples. In addition, Melissa directs a week-long AAC enrichment experience program for teens and tweens. Melissa is a certified member of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, holds licenses with the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and Division of Professional Licensure, and is certified as an Assistive Technology Professional through the Rehabilitation Engineering Society of North America

Workshop 7

Best Practices for Hybrid and Remote Teaching and Learning Presenter Sterling Swaby
Educational tools for teaching hybrid/remote. This workshop will cover various educational technology programs that can be modified to be used for all grades. Participants will learn best practices for each program. Participants will learn how to create a course using Canvas LMS for hybrid and remote instruction. This presentation will step viewers through creating a course from scratch for primary/secondary/higher education. Educators will learn how to embed assignments such as Nearpod, Edpuzzle, Flipgrid, Kami, and many more. This workshop will also cover creating Modules, Pages, Quizizz, and announcements. Viewers will learn how to use the tools and how they can be modified to be used for all grades.

Sterling Swaby, MEd is an English teacher at West Hollow Middle School in Melville, he is using his technical savvy to better connect students in the classroom with those learning at home. When he teaches, it is to both kids in the classroom and those tuning in remotely. Sterling was recently featured in a Newsday story about teachers adjusting and finding innovative ways to teach during the pandemic. He has been a special education teacher in the Half Hollow Hills Central School District, and the New York City Department of Education, taught in the Riverhead Charter School as well as an English teacher at the Ministry of Education in Madrid, Spain. Sterling is a Molloy graduate who holds a bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education, and master’s degrees in Special Education 7-12, and in Instructional Technology.


Workshop 8

Is a College Experience in Your Future? Presenters Maggie Blair & Kathleen Quinn Most Coordinators
This presentation will introduce participants to a unique college experience specifically designed for individuals with developmental challenges. The MOST (Molloy Opportunity for Successful Transition) Program prepares its students to become engaged members of their adult communities: their neighborhoods, their workplaces, and their social circles. This goal is supported by a comprehensive, three-year academic/job training program on the Molloy College campus. Additionally, the Molloy College campus provides rich opportunities for the MOST students to formally and informally interact with their college peers. This presentation will be interactive and time will be allocated to respond to audience questions.

Maggie Blair, MOST Coordinator has been an advocate for inclusive education for almost fifty years. She has served as a special education teacher, staff developer, and administrator for the Department of Education in New York City as well as several districts on Long Island. Prior to her recent retirement from her teaching position in the School of Education at Molloy College, she co-authored the design of the MOST Program and is now actively involved in the day-to-day operation of this program on the Molloy College campus.

Kathleen Quinn, MOST Coordinator is a board-certified behavior analyst (BCBA) and NYS licensed behavior analyst (LBA). She provides technical assistance and training to families, adult service agencies and school districts as they include individuals with developmental disabilities within their communities. Since pursuing her doctorate in education, her research focus includes expanding the practice of inclusion from early intervention through adulthood. As the founder of a not-for-profit foundation, she presents best practices and research-based evidence on applied behavior analysis with the focus of inclusion. She is now actively involved in coordinating the MOST Program at Molloy College, a post-secondary educational program for individuals with developmental disabilities.

Workshop 9

Navigating the Path to a Self-Determined Life Presenter Kathleen M. Quinn – Start-up and Support Brokerage/Transition Planning
This presentation will explore Self Direction as a service through OPWDD to promote personal growth and to customize the support needs of the transitioning individual. Kathleen Quinn, a start-up and support broker who has developed person-centered plans for over a decade will focus on the use of a person-centered approach to transition services. She will explain the mechanics of how transition supports can be fluid and can change to meet the needs of an individual throughout life. Mrs. Quinn will use her extensive knowledge of Self Direction to assist participants to identify appropriate support services that can be molded to meet the ever-evolving and unique needs of each self-determined adult.

Kathleen M Quinn, Start Up and Support Broker/ Transition Planning, MOST Coordinator working with individuals to direct their supports and services using self-direction. As the Supervisor of Medicaid Service Coordination at LIAC she advocated for self-direction with employer and budget authority. She then founded Mary Quinn’s Mark LLC an independent brokerage company that promotes inclusion in education, the community and housing. She worked with Molloy College to design the MOST program whose mission is to create a college experience and employment for individuals with developmental disabilities.


Register for the Conference

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