What is the PIE Conference?

/ January 26, 2016

       About the Author


Janet Shouse is a parent of a young adult with autism, and she is passionate about inclusion, employment of people with disabilities, medical issues related to developmental disabilities, supports and services, public policy, legislative initiatives, advocacy, and the intersection of faith and disability. She wears many hats at the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center, including one as a disability employment specialist for TennesseeWorks.

Our hope is that this weekly blog will offer information you want to know, so if you have a question you want answered about employment for people with disabilities or other mysteries of the world of work, please email me at janet.shouse@vumc.org.


By Janet Shouse

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The Tennessee Department of Education holds an annual conference called the Partners in Education Conference (PIE) and invites special education and general education teachers, administrators and parents to attend. This year’s conference will feature Megan Bomgaars, one of the stars of the A&E series Born This Way, as a keynote speaker. Born This Way is a documentary series about a group of seven young adults born with Down syndrome, their family and friends in Southern California.

The conference will take place at the Music City Center in Nashville and begins with a pre-conference day on Feb. 8, with the main conference running Feb. 9-11. The conference, which costs $150, offers multiple tracks, such as:

  • Early childhood
  • Early literacy
  • English as a Second Language/English Learners
  • Increasing Access to Core Instruction
  • RTI 2
  • Secondary Transition and Intervention.

“The PIE conference offers an opportunity to participate in sessions related to high expectations, access to general education curriculum, and appropriate supports to meet the academic and non-academic needs of students,” said Joey Hassell, assistant commissioner for special populations and student support in the Tennessee Department of Education. “We know that we must take a holistic approach to educating students, and this conference shares best practice for aligning services for ALL students.”

Some of the sessions are “The Top 5 Things An Advocate Never Wants to Hear At An IEP Team Meeting;” “Building Bridges from Early Childhood to Kindergarten;” “Supporting Relationships, Learning, and Inclusion: The Power and Practice of Peer-Mediated Interventions;” “Conservatorships and Alternatives;” “Making the Connection: Creating Strong Linkages to Adult and Community Services,” and “Think Like a Behavior Analyst.” Click here to download the conference program. 

Dr. Erik Carter at the 2015 PIE Conference

Dr. Erik Carter at the 2015 PIE Conference

“The PIE conference provides a wide range of sessions where families can learn about the best practices in education and transition,” says Dr. Erik Carter, professor of special education at Vanderbilt University and principal investigator for the TennesseeWorks Partnership. “It is a wonderful place to learn about which practices to advocate for at an IEP meeting.”

One of the new features of the conference is a self-advocate entrepreneur section in the Exhibit Hall. One of the budding business people will be Megan Bomgaars, who has created a line of clothing she sells under the brand “Megology.” Come see what creative ideas and products these young entrepreneurs are selling. The Exhibit Hall also offers plenty of resources and information.

Registration for the conference ends next Tuesday, Feb. 2. Frequently asked questions, such as parking costs and starting times, can be found here:

Teachers and administrators can earn credit for attendance; family members simply gain knowledge.

This is one of those conferences where it’s hard to choose which sessions to attend, because the offerings are so rich. Think about joining us and learning how to be a Partner in Education.

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