Tips, Trust, and Humor: Connecting with Indiana Teachers and Employment Specialists

December 7, 2017

What do taking your accounting department to lunch, baking cookies, and Julie Andrews have to do with audience outreach? Each of those notions were components of messages delivered this past year to Indiana employment professionals.

The Indiana Institute on Disability and Community (IIDC) at Indiana University prides itself on addressing issues across the lifespan and, in so doing, reaching a diverse audience. IIDC's Center on Community Living and Careers (CCLC), one of six centers at the Institute, specializes in transition issues and adult services. Staff of the center regularly speak with:

  • secondary teachers, counselors, and administrators, who need to understand how to advise students and parents about changing graduation rules and guidelines;
  • community employment service providers, who need to be aware of how the state's recent implementation of order of selection for vocational rehabilitation services could impact their job seekers; and
  • employment specialists, who need to know which form will help them request additional hours for supported employment.   

Tips for Teachers

Throughout the school year, CCLC and the staff of its Indiana Secondary Transition Resource Center (INSTRC) deliver "Tuesday's Transition Tips for Teachers" via email to hundreds of Hoosier middle school and secondary special education educators. Tuesday's Tips are brief notes to busy teachers that help them find the resources they need. Recent examples: career exploration videos, voting guides for new voters with disabilities, transition assessments, apps for independent living, and a series of quick videos about Transition IEP components.   

Though CCLC also has an active presence on Facebook, center staff recognize that some of its audiences, teachers for instance, don't always have access to social media or time in the day to check their feeds. "Our teachers are incredibly busy," says Joni Schmalzried, Ph.D., a research coordinator with INSTRC. "We wanted the messages to be simple and something a teacher can quickly scan when they're going through their emails." Resources are either attached or the Tuesday Tip includes a link so that teachers don't have to spend time researching a topic or clicking through multiple pages to find what they need.

Solutions for Specialists

Meanwhile, on the employment side of the CCLC house, staff with expertise in technical assistance and training have been publishing "Shared Solutions," a new blog that speaks directly to the state's employment specialists and directors of disability service providers. Employment professionals have a steep learning curve. In the past two years the state has implemented a new employment service model and overhauled its documentation and billing procedures. Turnover among employment specialists is high, so caseloads can be challenging.

"Shared Solutions" is a way for CCLC to empathize with employment providers and specialists. "In the blogposts, we've worked to develop trust with specialists, sometimes by using humor, other times just by recognizing where they're at," said Jackie Tijerina, a CCLC project coordinator and employment specialist trainer. And, as with Tuesday's Tips, the "Shared Solutions" blog delivers "tools-you-can-use" and resources specific to the field and to Indiana. Staff frequently create short, how-to videos of specialists demonstrating a skill or task to accompany a post.

So, where did "Take your accounting department to lunch" show up? It was a recommendation featured in "Don't Work for Free!" a post about billing issues. Baking cookies was a situation assessment suggestion for job seekers who like to cook. And Julie Andrews-as in channeling your inner Julie Andrews-received a mention in "Getting to Know You," a post about informational interviewing. 

The latest "Shared Solutions" is up and running at