Wide-Ranging School Career Lands Educator New Role as State’s Transition Coordinator
By Janet Shouse and Martina Stump
During my years working with school systems as a parent of a student with disability, I learned the value of knowing the folks in leadership at various levels. I got to know the leadership at my children’s schools, the district’s central office leadership, the local school board members and eventually leaders at the Tennessee Department of Education.
So, I’d like to introduce you to Martina Stump, who has recently become the coordinator for Postsecondary Readiness & Transition with the Tennessee Department of Education’s Special Populations. In her role, she works with the TennesseeWorks Partnership and Transition Tennessee (transitiontn.org).
Martina has been working in special education in Tennessee for 24 years. She started working in a district as a speech therapist, and she later transitioned to a behavior classroom after receiving a graduate degree in special education. After working with students with behavior needs for many years, she started co-teaching with general education teachers at the middle school level. Martina then transitioned to a high school where she was a work skills teacher, special education coordinator, and finally, a transition coordinator.
Leaving the district, Martina started working with the state Department of Education as an IDEA regional specialist in the Upper Cumberland area. She’s excited to be in her new role and is eager to assist school districts in improving transition planning for students with disabilities.
Because I’m inquisitive, I reached out to Martina to see whether I could ask some questions about her background, and she graciously agreed. I hope this Q & A will allow you to get to know her better.
Q. Where are you from?
A. I’m from Michigan but moved to Cookeville, TN, the summer before my senior year of high school.
Q. Where did you go to college initially?
A. I started at Tennessee Tech University but then transferred to Middle Tennessee State University for speech therapy.
Q. Where did you start working as an SLP?
A. Putnam County.
Q. What led you to choose speech-language pathology?
A. It was so long ago, I really cannot remember. I am so grateful for my experience with speech therapy.
Q. What led you to decide to go back to school to become a special education teacher
A. Tennessee changed the license requirement for speech therapist, and I did not want to drive to night classes at Tennessee State University as it was far from home, and I was pregnant with my youngest daughter at the time. So I decided to attend Tennessee Tech, which is less than a mile from my house, to obtain my master’s in special education and get my teaching license.
Q. What led you to work with students with behavior needs?
A. Luck of the draw, but one of the best experiences I have had with teaching.
Q. What were the pluses and minuses of co-teaching with general education teachers?
A. The gen ed teachers I taught with were amazing. We truly co-taught with me being the expert on differentiation and accommodations, and the gen ed teacher the expert on the core curriculum. For co-teaching to work, it has to be a partnership with both teachers having ownership in the classroom.
Q. Do you like teaching middle school students? (I’m not a teacher, but as a student and as a parent, I know it takes a special kind of teacher to work well with middle schoolers—those with disabilities and those without.)
A. I enjoyed teaching middle school students and felt like it helped me to be a better teacher when I moved to the high school. It is always good to have different perspectives and work with different grades.
Q. What district were you in as a works skills teacher, special education coordinator and transition coordinator?
A. All in Putnam County.
Q. Was that district highly inclusive of students with disabilities or were there segregated classrooms?
A. Yes, the district was inclusive but also with segregated classrooms. They provided all services to support students with disabilities.
Q. What did you do as an IDEA regional specialist? (I’ve never heard of such a thing.)
A. I supported districts with all things IDEA.
Q. Can you tell us more about what you do in your role as the postsecondary readiness and transition coordinator?
A. I serve as the technical support to the local education agencies for secondary grades. The goal for the secondary assistance is to improve transition-related assessment, planning, and services, with the focus on improving postsecondary outcomes for students through collaboration with districts and regional supports.
Q. If you had one bit of advice for parents of transition-age youth with disabilities, what would that be?
A. Help your student develop self-determination, self-advocacy skills, and soft employment skills. (Soft skills include such things as communication, teamwork, time management, flexibility, and self-motivation.) Assist with expanding their social and community supports. Lastly, just prepare them for change since life is full of challenges and stumbling points.
Q. If you had one bit of advice for transition-age students with disabilities, what would that be?
A. Students need to lead their IEP and transition planning meetings. They need to understand the accommodations that are helpful for their disability. Set goals for adulthood. Lastly, prepare to talk about themselves, to share their passions, and what they may want or need.
I appreciate Martina’s taking the time to share some information about herself, her work, and her thoughts about key elements of transition. If you have questions or concerns about postsecondary readiness or transition for youth and young adults, Martina would be happy to hear from you. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
And, of course, you can always email me at email@example.com if you have questions. I’m happy to try to find answers! Thank you for reading!
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.
April 20, 2021