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Catherine Crowley, J.D., Ph.D., is a Professor of Practice in the Communication Sciences and Disorders Program, Director of the Bilingual SLP Extension Institute, Coordinator of the Bilingual/Multicultural Program Focus, and Director of the Ghana and Bolivia programs at Teachers College. Since 2006, Dr. Crowley has led 23 service trips to Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Ethiopia, Ghana, Peru, and the Philippines, where she and the students of Speech-Language Pathology (SLP) at Teachers College provide free services to people with communication disorders. As evidenced by her passion for service-oriented fieldwork learning as well as her students’ enthusiastic participation, she takes the title—Professor of Practice—especially to heart.
Dr. Crowley’s work with Teachers College began in 1998. Thanks to her unwavering dedication, her work with the SLP graduate students is known both nationally and internationally for its multicultural and bilingual focus in both clinical and research settings. Not only that, the work is an opportunity for students to acquire practical, high quality clinical skills and cultural competencies. Using her expertise in disability evaluations, Dr. Crowley addresses the disproportionate number of U.S. students referred to special education due to a lack of understanding of dialectical differences. Dr. Crowley believes that the key to these culturally responsive evaluations—and ultimately treatment and progress—is an evaluator’s ability to distinguish between the gaps in communication and disability. Her students acquire these skills as they provide services and work with families, teachers, and medical professionals on these international trips.
Now, more than half of the students in the master’s program—over 30 students a year—participate in Dr. Crowley’s service trips, many of which take place in international communities in dire need of fundamental services. Take Ghana for example: with a population of 26 million people, Ghana is home to only five speech therapists. In collaboration with her colleagues at the University of Ghana, Dr. Crowley developed the country’s first SLP master’s program. The inaugural cohort began in 2016, and the first class of 13 graduates in Spring 2018.
In working with these global communities, Dr. Crowley aims to build capacity and sustainability within local experts so that communities can begin to address their needs for speech therapists and in this way, become more self-sufficient. One example is the annual professional development retreat in Ghana for teachers of students with intellectual disabilities and autism given each year for the past seven years. Dr. Crowley also has a focus on cleft palate speech therapy, and has led cleft palate speech therapy trainings in Asia, Africa, and Latin America often including her students in the trainings, as well as offering free, online cleft palate speech therapy courses in Spanish and English. It was through this aim that the Law and Evidence-based Approaches for Disability Evaluation and Resources (LEADERS) Project was born. Since its inception, LEADERS has offered an open-sourced library in a variety of languages of resources, training materials, and courses for practitioners, educators, and families of children and adolescents with communication disorders.
Looking ahead, Dr. Crowley’s international involvement continues to increase. In January 2018, she plans to take another group of students to Ghana. This time, she will remain there for part of the semester to conduct research and teach in the master’s program there. From there, Dr. Crowley will head to Paris for a language immersion program so that she can expand her work to French-speaking countries in Africa. Afterwards, she plans to continue her work with Smile Train with a five-day speech therapy training institute for cleft palate across India, Africa, and Southeast Asia.
By: Melanie Cooke
Editors: Heidi Liu Banerjee & Blessing Nuga
Dr. Mary Mendenhall isn’t simply an Assistant Professor of Practice in the Department of International and Transcultural Studies, a committed researcher, or a loving mother; she’s also a pioneer. With a team of dedicated graduate students and the support of IDEO.org, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), and the Office of International Affairs’ (OIA) Global Investment Fund (GIF) grant, Dr. Mendenhall spearheaded the pilot launch of “Teachers for Teachers”—a professional development initiative that combines teacher training, peer coaching, and mobile mentoring in Kakuma Refugee Camp, Kenya. Founded in 2015, Teachers for Teachers jumpstarts and sustains teacher professional development for refugee and national teachers providing education to refugees in Kenya.
In one of the largest refugee camps in the world—where 51% (90,673) of the population is under 18—only 31% of teachers have received any kind of training. The average teacher-to-student ratio is 1:103. The reality of such numbers led Dr. Mendenhall and her team to develop Teachers for Teachers. A comprehensive, open-source curriculum, Teachers for Teachers employs a three-pronged approach: (1) internationally and locally co-led training workshops for teachers; (2) in-person peer coaching and group support; and (3) mobile mentoring, through which teachers communicate with experienced teachers or passionate educators around the world using the mobile messaging device, Whatsapp. Dr. Mendenhall and her team aim to fill gaps in education for refugees in Kakuma Camp, Kenya and across the globe; they strive to make the model sustainable and dynamic as the program trains locals to become leaders in the camp’s education system: “What’s been amazing is that now that we have 132 teachers trained in this first round, we can draw on those same teachers to return to support future training and coaching activities. They are able to say in their own words what worked for them and what didn’t work. It just changes the dynamic and is far more effective when they’re right there co-leading with us.”
Dr. Mendenhall is quick to underscore the involvement of her students. Not only did they initiate the ambitious project, they are also indispensable in sustaining it. “A couple years ago, we started that process. It was a long process, but students who had taken my “Education Emergencies” class1 were really motivated, really committed, and coincidentally many of them were teachers themselves. We continued working together and we wrote—they wrote, heavily—the curriculum that’s now become the training pack for primary school teachers in crisis contexts.” With the GIF grant, Dr. Mendenhall and two Master’s students—Charlotte Bergin and Peter Bjorklund—spent several weeks in Kakuma to collect data for the pilot launch. Charlotte went on to be hired as a consultant analyzing the pilot data and drafting the final curriculum, which was developed in collaboration with the inter-agency Teachers in Crisis Contexts Working Group. Another student on the team, Kathleen Denny, joined the International Rescue Committee (IRC) to pilot the project in Iraq.
To the outside eye, the pilot of Teachers for Teachers couldn’t have been more successful. Even so, bolstered by this initial success, Dr. Mendenhall and her students eagerly anticipate further growth. Since its inception in Kakuma, the open-sourced curriculum has been adapted by additional organizations to fit the contexts and profiles of teachers in other refugee communities, including those in Iraq and Burundi. Teachers for Teachers is also in the process of adapting the model for use at the secondary level and in a nearby settlement—Kalobeyei—as part of a UN-led initiative to integrate refugees with national Kenyans. However, it’s not just the growing numbers and growing interest that keeps Dr. Mendenhall and her research team motivated, “…It’s the resilience the teachers have, despite having 200 kids in their classroom and not enough books. It’s that they’re still eager to be teachers because they know that education is what it will take to get out of that camp someday, and to have other opportunities. They just kind of blow me away. They’re so grateful for us, and yet they have no idea that what they’re giving us is so much more than what we could ever give them.”
Teachers for Teachers is currently fundraising to update the curriculum and expand its reach. If you would like to help, you can get in touch with them here.
1 This group of amazing students included: Katherine Baker, Christine Bell, Charlotte Bergin, Peter Bjorklund, Rachel Chasse, Holly Cook, Kaitlyn Crandall, Kathleen Denny, Julie Dunn, Huipu Lee, Sheila Matsuda, Laura Wagner, and Brittney Wilcox