"People were crying and saying they wouldn’t have made it through without these sessions. It’s a lifeline, and they were very grateful. We laughed a lot together and cried a lot together."
Dr. Melissa Winchell has been busy as of late. In addition to the pandemic-related research she and her colleagues have conducted, the professor in the Department of Secondary Education and Professional Programs also has been working in other ways on this front, as well as helping local communities learn more about issues pertaining to race.
In terms of the pandemic, she has been supporting parents with special needs students across the South Shore of Massachusetts via weekly educational Zoom workshops. Four years ago, Dr. Winchell, who has three special needs children herself, including Moriah (above), founded the nonprofit Inclusion Matters Inc., which supports families like hers. The online sessions further the organization’s goals. Some of her BSU faculty colleagues, as well as her students, also have participated in the workshops.
The weekly sessions began shortly after schools closed in March and ran through mid-June. Topics included how to teach reading skills to students with disabilities, managing parental stress levels, and knowing how to spot and support the emotional needs of students.
“We are able to reach dozens and dozens of parents and form a tight-knit community,” she said. “People were crying and saying they wouldn’t have made it through without these sessions. It’s a lifeline, and they were very grateful. We laughed a lot together and cried a lot together.”
Dr. Winchell also has been working for the past year with Dr. Kevin McGowan of the Department of Elementary and Early Childhood Education to help the East Bridgewater, Bridgewater-Raynham and Easton school districts create antiracist programming. The pair has developed curricula, and helped students, teachers and administrators deal with racial injustice. The programming includes formulating workshops for students, as well as assisting administrators when incidents of racism impact their schools.
The project will continue into next year, and the two professors hope to bring to BSU a conference based on the work they’ve been doing.