HDI 50th Anniversary Spotlight on Jacqui Kearns

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HDI was an opportunity to build strengths, gifts, and abilities to accomplish some important goals – to share knowledge and expertise, and to learn from the best teachers.
—Jacqui Kearns, HDI Project Director – Principal Investigator TAALC, TIES, SPEAC-IT

How did you come to know HDI?

I learned about HDI when Dr. Kleinert asked me if I would be interested in working here for a year.

How long have you been at HDI and what is your role?

I think August will mark 28 years here at HDI – then it was IHDI. Most of my work has been focused on the inclusion of children with moderate intellectual disabilities across school life.

During your time at HDI, of which accomplishments are you most proud?

While certainly not the most popular, the inclusion of children with intellectual disabilities in all aspects of the Kentucky’s Education Reform Act  (KERA) was significant in terms of placing KY on a national scene. While assessment and accountability were the most predominant of the KERA features—and likely the least welcome—it has had some significant lessons.

It taught us that kids with intellectual disabilities can learn academic content and should learn academic content; some kids come to school and leave school without communication—the most essential skill necessary for the most basic life outcome. It generated a revenue stream to fund promising initiatives here at HDI, and it continues to provide a national forum for discussion about access to inclusive schools and classrooms for the best possible outcomes—social, communication, academic, even vocational outcomes for students with ID. While it certainly has had some unintended negative consequences—and is certainly not popular—it has challenged some of the beliefs we have about these students.

Looking back, can you please share with us a fun or fond moment you had at HDI?

Laughing … well, perhaps a fond memory was when I took my then months old son, Wesley, to a couple of out-of-state meetings.

Do you have any advice you would like to share with current and future staff and students at HDI?

We must remember that the inclusion of ALL children is ALWAYS better. It provides more opportunities for academic, social, and practical skill development than segregated settings ever will be able to provide. The inclusion of these children is a life-long endeavor.

What do you think the future holds for HDI?

The future is bright for HDI as the focus on high quality life outcomes – educational, social, vocational, community living is an important mission.