Get to know Jennifer Valentine

Get to know Jennifer Valentine

New director of special education

By Ruthann Carr, Correspondent

Last month Fluvanna County School Superintendent Chuck Winkler chose Jennifer Valentine as the division’s newest director of special education. Valentine has been a teacher and assistant principal in Fluvanna for 18 years. The Fluvanna Review asked Valentine about her new role, her expectations and the need to provide special education in our schools.

How has your experience prepared you to be director of special education?
Having been both a special education teacher and an assistant principal in Fluvanna County for the last 18 years, I have come to learn about and understand the needs of students, staff, families, and the community. I have also learned to never assume, but to continue to ask and seek input. Having a variety of experience in special education in both school and non-school settings also have added to my preparation.

What skills or characteristics does a person need to be successful in your new position?
My new role will be an expanded version of my current role as assistant principal and many of the same leadership skills will apply. I will need to be organized and detail-oriented with a vision of the big picture. I will have to continue on my path as a lifelong learner. I will also have to continue to listen to the stakeholders involved to gather information to then make the best possible decisions for students based on the information gathered.

Define a “special needs/education” student.
Webster’s dictionary definition of special needs is “any of various difficulties (such as a physical, emotional, behavioral, or learning disability or impairment) that causes an individual to require additional or specialized services or accommodations (such as in education or recreation).”

How many Fluvanna students fit the special education criteria?
That number fluctuates due to the changing needs of the children; however, a current number would be approximately 575 students.

Is there a continuum of special education needs?
There is definitely a continuum. Each student comes to us with their own unique set of abilities and needs. At FCPS we have a continuum that includes providing interventions and supports for all of our students based on individual student needs.

What would you like us to know about special needs students?
I would like our community, students and parents to be understanding and accepting of all people regardless of abilities or disabilities.

What are some common misconceptions?
I don’t believe I can speak to people’s misconceptions. Those are unique to individuals as well. Many misconceptions can be changed when people look at things from someone else’s perspective.

Please describe why public schools must be prepared to teach every student who comes through the door.
Our students are the reason that we exist. Each child deserves a free and appropriate public education.

What would you like to accomplish in your new position?
I would like to continue moving forward with our quest for success for all students. I would specifically like to focus on awareness of others and kindness to all.

What do you love about the special education community?
I love that it is a community of students, friends, parents, educators and community members, all striving for a common goal of increasing the quality of life for all children. From the students specifically, I love the joy they bring to each and every day.

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