In September, University of Maine Professor Stephen Butterfield helped train students at China’s Beijing Sport University (BSU) how to test motor proficiency of children with intellectual disabilities.
Despite being 6,500 miles from Orono, Maine, Butterfield says the experience was much like being in an American classroom; the 30 undergraduate, graduate and doctoral students he taught each had an American name (as well as a Chinese name), spoke some English and wore Western-style clothing.
The BSU students are taking part in the Chinese government-funded study to develop a national database, says Butterfield, professor and chair of UMaine’s Department of Exercise Science and STEM Education. The data they gather about motor proficiency of youth with intellectual disabilities will likely be used to generate policy and provide direction for instruction and research, he says.
“I was honored to be invited to participate in this project,” Butterfield says. “It’s a pretty big study and will reach all parts of China. Eventually this project should result in Chinese children with disabilities receiving better physical education and opportunities to participate in sports. Data can speak very powerfully. Dr. Glenn Roswal, a world leader in APE (Adapted Physical Education), contacted me about a year ago. In terms of travel, the timing wasn’t great — second week of classes — but Dean (Dee) Nichols was very supportive.”
Butterfield conducted the training with Roswal from Jacksonville State University in Alabama and Mike Loovis of Cleveland State University in Ohio.
BSU has more than 14,000 students who study various fields within exercise science and sports, including coaching, sport science, management, journalism and rehabilitation. Butterfield says its facilities are impressive; the 1,400-acre campus has 25 gymnasiums and 62 outdoor sport fields. In the previous four Olympics, BSU staff and students have won 30 gold medals, 16 silver medals and nine bronze medals, according to the school’s website.
Butterfield says the students he trained were professional, smart, attentive, inquisitive and respectful of the youth with whom they worked. While a return trip to China is possible, Butterfield says additional consulting will likely be done electronically.
The weeklong all-expense-paid trip, Butterfield’s first to China, was gratifying. He visited Tiananmen Square and the Great Wall of China, dined at a country club adjacent to a golf course and was asked by a number of Chinese citizens to pose for pictures. Youth gave him artwork.
“The Chinese were wonderful hosts,” Butterfield says. “The subway system was clean and efficient and the traffic was unbelievable — it flows like a river. The air quality was variable and a lot of people wore masks.”
While Butterfield is widely recognized as a leader in adapted physical education, the specialty wasn’t part of his early career plan. In the early 1970s, after completing his bachelor’s at Springfield College focusing on curriculum and instruction in physical education, he was offered a job teaching physical education and coaching boys basketball at Austine School for the Deaf in Brattleboro, Vt.
“I wasn’t really interested at first, but my wife was expecting and I had no job so I took it,” he says.
Butterfield learned sign language and found the job to be tremendously gratifying. “No one appreciates you more than kids with disabilities and their parents,” he says. “It’s a pretty big reward.”
When youth with multiple disabilities began attending the school, Butterfield decided he needed additional training to remain an effective educator. When he returned to school — The Ohio State University — he earned his Ph.D. with a focus on adapted physical education.
At UMaine, one of Butterfield’s courses is Adapted Physical Education, a required class for kinesiology and physical education majors in which students are paired with children and adults with disabilities. Butterfield has been teaching the course for nearly three decades.
Contact: Beth Staples, 207.581.3777
University of Maine Dean of Education and Human Development William “Dee” Nichols recently received an Outstanding Alumni Award from Texas A&M University. Nichols and four other alumni were recognized at the 2013 College Awards Celebration, which was held by the College of Education and Human Development of Texas A&M University on Oct. 25. The Outstanding Alumni Award is given to graduates who are accomplished, reputable and have contributed to society. Nichols graduated from Texas A&M University in 1995 with a doctoral degree in educational curriculum and instruction with an emphasis on literacy from Texas A&M University.
Students in the University of Maine’s College of Education and Human Development visited the Cole Land Transportation Museum in Bangor to learn about war and the sacrifices veterans make, WLBZ (Channel 2) and the Bangor Daily News reported. Galen Cole, the museum’s founder, said he invites education students to the museum in hopes they will one day bring their students back when they start teaching. The museum also provides scholarships to UMaine education majors.
Paul Knowles, a lecturer in the College of Education and Human Development at the University of Maine, was interviewed in an Education Week blog post titled “Entrepreneurial approach could help struggling schools, educator says.” Knowles said with shrinking resources and declining enrollments in Maine, educators need to learn more lessons from entrepreneurs. He calls for this entrepreneurial-style leadership in a commentary for the American Association of School Administrators titled “Superintendents who are inviting, entrepreneurial and gritty.”
Janet Fairman, an associate professor of education at the University of Maine, spoke with the Maine Public Broadcasting Network for a report titled “School consolidation: 5 Maine communities to vote on leaving RSUs.” Fairman, who has researched the initial effects of consolidation on districts across the state, said most school districts in Maine did not want to be forced to consolidate. Changing from local control to a regional perspective on the welfare of students in other communities is a difficult shift, she says.
A University of Maine study on school district reorganization in Maine was cited in the Bangor Daily News article “Ellsworth, Hancock, Lamoine among communities to vote on withdrawal from regional school units.” The Maine Policy Review study by Janet Fairman and Christine Donis-Keller observed the consolidation process over the first two years in 15 regional school units across the state and found the overwhelming consensus was the forced approach for consolidation produced a negative reaction and led to efforts to repeal or revise the law. The article also quoted Gordon Donaldson, professor emeritus of education at UMaine, who said “the solution to poor achievement, particularly in poor neighborhoods, is to get parents involved” and that participation is taken away from neighborhoods when big districts are set up.
The Bangor Daily News published an opinion piece by Gordon Donaldson, professor emeritus of education at the University of Maine, titled “End the Ellsworth-area RSU experiment on Nov. 5.” Donaldson wrote residents in Ellsworth, Hancock and Lamoine want to withdraw from Regional School Unit 24, and a “yes” vote on the issue would allow the towns to determine their own school futures and budgets.
Janet Fairman, an associate professor of education at the University of Maine, spoke with the Maine Public Broadcasting Network for a report titled “Study: Maine should boost education funding by $260 million.” Fairman said “Maine needs to move to a funding formula that relies less on local property taxes,” which would mean raising more money for education through fees or higher state taxes. She added that formula would be difficult in the currently strong anti-tax environment and concerns over the state’s slow economic recovery.
The University of Maine College of Education and Human Development will host the third Symposium for Educators of International Students in Maine from 8:30 a.m.–12:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 1 at the Buchanan Alumni House on the Orono campus.
The professional development conference will focus on issues related to the education of international students attending Maine high schools.
Teachers, counselors and administrators of schools with international students, as well as University of Maine faculty and students, are invited to the free event.
Aretha Marbley, visiting professor from Texas Tech University, will deliver the keynote. Breakout sessions will address topics such as dating and relationship customs, the perceived pressure for international students to attend Ivy League universities, and increasing competence as multicultural educators.
At 11:30 a.m., a panel of international students from local high schools will answer questions about their experiences coming to Maine. International UMaine students will also perform musical presentations throughout the day.
The Associated Press reported on a partnership between the University of Maine’s College of Education and Human Development and the Maine Department of Education to create a statewide system of supports for Mainers who serve children with autism and their families. The Maine Autism Institute for Education and Research (MAIER) will open Jan. 1, 2014 on the UMaine campus. News OK, Boston.com, WLBZ (Channel 2), Sun Journal, Press Herald and WABI (Channel 5) were among organizations to carry the report.