Meet Jacqueline DeWitt, Content Specialist in Assistive Technology on the Instructional Services team.
Jacqueline believes that all students have the ability to learn, and her role is to help them get and use the tools that will assist in them doing so. Assistive technology offers a wide range of tools, she says, from communication devices with pictures and words to help a nonverbal student express their thoughts, to simple visuals like checklists and graphic organizers to keep students on track, to text-to-speech (TTS) software that can read to students.
“The role of the educator is to find what works for each specific student,” she says.
Jacqueline completed her studies at SUNY New Paltz, graduating with a bachelor’s degree in Childhood Education, Grades 1-6, and a master's degree in Students with Disabilities, Grades 1-6. She has been an educator for about 15 years, and has worked in a preschool, a day care center, and in behavior-based classrooms. Before coming to Ulster BOCES this January, she worked at Questar III BOCES in Columbia-Greene County as a Special Education teacher.
“Having assistive technology can help a student who is feeling frustrated engage with the learning with more ease,” she observes. “The right tools can make them more excited about school and allow them to take a more active role in their learning.”
In her current role, she will be working with teachers and students at the Center for Innovative Teaching & Learning, the Career & Technical Center in Port Ewen, and in schools served by Ulster BOCES. Jacqueline enjoys “playing with and learning the tools” she brings to teachers and students. “I love integrating technology into lessons to make it more engaging and fun,” she says.
One of Jacqueline’s favorite new innovations is a Google Chrome extension called "Read&Write." It offers users a multitude of options to make text more accessible to them. It can read to students, and also gives them the option of highlighting text in different colors, which is useful when someone is learning about a topic and needs to sort out different information. For example, if a student was reading a passage about dogs, they could highlight breeds in pink, general dog health information in blue, and training recommendations in yellow. The information can then be sorted into a Google Doc.
This is an excellent application for students who struggle with the process of reading information, absorbing it, and writing about it in their own words, Jacqueline says. “I wish that it existed when I was going to school!” she exclaims. Seeing her students feel successful and confident about their learning is, she says, the most rewarding aspect of her work. “It is everything we strive for!” she declares.
In her spare time, Jacqueline is often seen at the ice rink with her son, aged 16, and daughter, aged 11, who both play on travel teams. She also loves crafting, and baking desserts for her family.