How and When We Began

The seeds for the partnership were sown in January, 2005, when Dr. Bill Hopkins (SUNY Cortland Department of Psychology) visited Belize to meet with staff members of what was then called the Special Education Unit, now renamed, National Resource Center for Inclusive Education (NaRCIE). Staff shared their desire to increase the quality of services. However, limitations of funds negated the probability of more personnel. The problem was: How to upgrade the quality of service with no new personnel and little or no money.

It was decided that teachers needed readily accessible information. The first venture in this direction was the creation of Teachers’ Resource Manuals for each of the approximately 380 primary schools. The rough draft for the manuals was carefully reviewed by 30 Belizean educators. The manuals were then edited, printed, and inserted into three-ring binders. At workshops in each of the six districts in Belize, the manuals were hand delivered to almost every primary school principal.

The third phase, begun in January, 2008, is the availability of the licensed communication program, Wimba. Wimba allows communication among participants with access to the site, both with audio communication and with text.

The fourth phase, begun in June, 2008, was the development of the Cortland-Belize Partnership website, which you are now viewing.

Who's Involved

The Cortland segment of the partnership is coordinated by Bill Hopkins, who has since retired from the psychology faculty at SUNY Cortland. Bill began teaching when he had one of the first special-education high school classes for students who otherwise would be institutionalized in California. He is a NY State Licensed psychologist and has worked for over 20 years as a consultant to agencies for adults with developmental disabilities. He is assisted by his wife, Dorothy, who has 42 years teaching experience in the Standard 4 (U.S. 6th grade) classroom. Her expertise is assessment and intervention based on the findings.

Individuals who have learned about the partnership have generously offered input and support, some even paying their expenses to work in Belize. Sarah Trautman-Eslinger is the CEO of a consulting firm in California, specializing in autism. She has taken time from her 52-person staff organization to conduct workshops on autism in Belize.

Marilyn VanSlyke and Gina Ciarlo, both special education teachers in Dryden, NY, have come to Belize to conduct workshops, do assessments, and to share their specialized knowledge with teachers. Mary Sinnott is a retired teacher from Central New York and has conducted workshops on stress reduction for teachers. Dennis Wright, retired teacher and administrator from Central New York came to Belize to capture many images on digital camera. George Sisting—a man of many talents—designed the first website for the project.

SUNY Cortland provides valuable instructional-technology support (creation of the CD material, installation of Wimba, and creation of the current website). Christine Widdall and Loren Leonard have spent considerable time and energy on the project. Justin Stewart created the website you are now viewing. Financial support has been provided by various SUNY Cortland offices, particularly that of the Provost and Vice-President of Academic Affairs and the Office of Research and Sponsored Programs.

davita Eleanor Ms NealThe Belize personnel directly involved with the project include: Dativa Martinez, Director of Educational Support Programs; Eleanor [Castillo] Enriquez, coordinator of NaRCIE; and Merlene Neal, Assessment Coordinator for NaRCIE.

Many other educators in Belize have also had a hand in contributing to the project. Among them are Judy Diego, Education Manager--Cayo District; Ora Rivas, Itinerant Resource Officer—Stann Creek District; Nelson Longsworth, Director of theBill Hopkins and Ms Joy Office of Quality Assurance and Development; Jackie Henry, Administrative Assistant for NaRCIE; Abby Wade Itinerant Resource Officer for Cayo District, and Joy Westby, Pricipal Stella Maris School.