An Educator’s Journey Through Special Education Blog 5

CT Aspiring Leadership Academy

Blog 5


So, there I am, just minding my own business teaching my social studies and special education students at Brookside School, when I get an email that catches my attention. It is an email about a new leadership program in special education. I thought it would be great to get some good high-quality special education training so I could do my job better. Getting good special education training is not an easy thing to do.

           I can still remember returning to New Britain High School some years earlier to teach special education again. I walked into the high school special education director’s office and asked how to get some good special education training. I had been looking on YouTube and Amazon but didn’t see anything that I thought would really help me. I asked the director if she had any good books, articles, or videos to help me do my new special education job. She turned and looked at me and said, “Dan! You learn special education by doing! Now get the hell out of my office!” 

           “Absolutely. I will do that,” I commented as I backed out of her office, laughing to myself.

          Regarding the new special education training program, I loved the idea that the program was free to the teachers, too. I had earned my master’s in special education back in 1995. And I didn’t have the money or time to go back to college to get the next special education degree, which I think would have been a doctorate. I wouldn’t have to pay a dime for this training with this new program. I would save a lot of time and money. And I think it is going to be pretty targeted instruction and relevant to my professional duties as a special education teacher in this day and age. 

          Now, I just had to get picked among some stiff competition for the program.           

           So, what is this program? Well, I’m still trying to find out all the details myself. But from what I gathered, it looks like the Connecticut State Department of Education teamed up with the University of Connecticut Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities. Together, they have created the CT Aspiring Leaders Academy in Special Education. This new program will help prepare potential leaders for future administrative positions in special education.

          It’s a year-long program that includes workshops, seminars, observations, assignments, and field experiences. Participants are supposed to gain knowledge, skills, and experiences that will help them excel in special education leadership positions. 

           To tell you the truth, I hadn’t really thought much about climbing the administration career ladder on the special education side. But if this program is a good experience, maybe I will pursue that avenue after all. Also, the Connecticut Department of Education (CTDOE) funds the costs associated with the program. So, again, I love the fact that this program isn’t costing me any money out of my pocket. It seems like we teachers are always broke. And to add insult to injury, in the education world, they tell us teachers we have to go back to school to get our masters, but the school systems won’t pay for it. Many of my buddies in the business world have had their companies pay for their masters. It doesn’t seem right to me that the teachers who make less money are expected to pay for their advanced degrees.

           Let’s get back to this new special education leadership program now. CT’s program is brand new. I will be in its first cohort if picked. The CT program is based on Virginia’s program heading into its 15th year. Virginal also has a new special education director academy. They’re pretty far along the learning curve. 

         The Virginia leadership program has been doing a good job improving outcomes for students with disabilities by strengthening special education leadership in their state. We now hope to mimic what Virginia is doing here in CT. There have been reports all over the United States of a coming grey tsunami that will hit education. There are going to be mass retirements. People are wondering who will teach our children when they are gone. Then throw into the mix the hard-to-fill jobs like special education and special education administrative leadership positions, and many people are apprehensive. 

           So, I attended the informational session via zoom. I filled out the application, wrote a few essays, and got my principal to write me a reference letter. Next, I did an interview with the CT Aspiring Leadership Academy Team. I then waited to hear back if I was going to be one of the twenty people picked from a pool of around a hundred people. 

           Finally, an acceptance email came in. I thought it was very cool to participate in a new adventure that would help me improve in my profession. Here is the letter below: 


Dear Dan,

Congratulations! We are pleased to invite you to be a participant in the 2022-2023 Connecticut Aspiring Leadership Academy for Special EducationThe selection of our first cohort was highly competitive. But we feel you have the qualifications, motivation, and stamina to successfully complete the Academy to prepare you to become a future special education leader in the CT.

The Academy is a collaboration between the University of Connecticut’s Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities Education, Research and Service (UConn UCEDD) and the CT State Department of Education.

As we have described, the Academy is a 1-year commitment that will begin in late March 2022. Participation will require approximately 10 hours a month virtually, via Zoom, and additional time to complete assigned learning activities. If feasible, we will have a longer in-person session over the summer (dependent on current COVID protocols and regulations).  

Please confirm your participation in the Aspiring Leadership Academy for Special Education by emailing Tara Viens. Once registration is received, additional information will be sent to you.

We look forward to working with you over the next year!



CT Aspiring Leaders Team

Bryan Klimkiewicz, Special Education Division Director, Connecticut State Department of Education (CSDE)

Andrea Brinnel, Early Childhood Consultant & IDEA 619 Part B Manager, CSDE

Mary Beth Bruder, Director, the University of Connecticut Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities (CT UCEDD)

Tara Viens, Assistant Director, CT UCEDD

Carl Gross, Aspiring Leaders Program Director

Ann Perzan, Aspiring Leaders Curriculum Specialist



That’s pretty cool, right? I got accepted. I’m looking forward to what I can learn, who I can network with, and what new adventurous doors might open soon. Amazingly, I have already received a piece of mail at my home from some organization looking to hire special educators for their summer camps. I’m not going to take the job. I have other commitments. But, it was still nice to be asked.

         I’m looking forward to what might happen next.