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Partnerships = Progress

by Shannon Mutter

Partnerships are so necessary in the adult education world and the Mount Rogers region is extremely lucky to be able to partner with one organization that makes a huge difference in how we serve our adult learners. Our instructors have always been wonderful at designing instruction to meet student needs, but we knew we needed to find a more researched-based, successful program to implement into our everyday practices for serving individuals with disabilities.

Not long after becoming the program manager for Mount Rogers Regional Adult Education Program, I was contacted by Christi Altizer, who is the Human Services Manager for the Abingdon and Wytheville Field Offices for the Virginia Department of Aging and Rehabilitative Services (DARS), to set up a meeting with my staff and her team. This meeting was to discuss how we could come up with a mutual referral system to ensure that the adults in our program were getting the services they needed to be successful in meeting their educational and career goals.

The referral process was just the beginning of this successful partnership. Christi, who has such a passion for helping everyone, also partnered with our local workforce development board to plan quarterly partner collaboration meetings. It was during these networking meetings that helpful connections were made on how to use the services that DARS provides for the training that our program had been searching for.

Fast-forward to the September 2023 VDOE Director’s Memo that states a new requirement for professional development for serving individuals with disabilities. Thanks to the collaboration from the partner meetings, we were already working with DARS through their Windmills program online, so it just made sense to reach out for more specific and in-person training.

Windmills was initially created in 1981 by Milt Wright & Associates as a result of the California Governor’s Commission on Employment of People with Disabilities. “Windmills is a high-impact training curriculum changing the perception of disability” (Wonski, 2022).

Photo of Matt Herron, DARS Business Development Manager for Southwest Virginia, conducting the Windmills training.
Matt Herron, DARS Business Development Manager for Southwest Virginia, conducting the Windmills training.

As part of the training provided by DARS to the Mount Rogers Adult Ed Program instructors, Matt Herron and Allison Enix presented the first two modules of the program, The Story Module and Perspectives. This was a great eye-opening opportunity for our instructors since it focused on our own experiences with individuals with disabilities. The activity allowed reflection on how to examine stereotypes associated with common disabilities and how prior perception of a disability can keep an individual with disabilities from being viewed as competent to complete educational and career goals.

Our plan moving forward with this valuable training is to allow the instructors time at our regional in-service meetings to share how the training has helped them in their adult education classes.

Participants of the Mount Rogers Regional Adult Education Program DARS Windmills Training

Some comments from the training include: “I realized I was putting too many limits on people based on what I know about disabilities”, “Focus on what they can do and not the disability”, and “I am so much more aware of the resources that DARS has to offer our adult education students”. All participants recommended the training to others.

We are so pleased with the progress we are making to serve all of our students and are so thankful for our partnership with DARS. We look forward to more training as we look for improvement to our services for individuals with disabilities.


Wonski, C. (2022). Integrating Windmills into your organization. Ohio Department of Administrative Services. https://dam.assets.ohio.gov/image/upload/das.ohio.gov/employee-relations/diversity-equity-inclusion/2022/Integrating_Windmills_into_your_Organization.pdf

Photo of Shannon MutterShannon Mutter is the Regional Program Manager for Mount Rogers Regional Adult Education Program. As the Regional Program Manager, she oversees the ABE, GED®, ESOL, and workforce programs in the counties of Bland, Carroll, Grayson, Smyth, Washington, and Wythe as well as the cities of Bristol and Galax. Shannon’s previous adult education work experience includes classroom instructor and Regional Instructional Specialist. Shannon currently serves on the New River/Mount Rogers Workforce Development Board and as the Vice President of the local prison ministry board. She is a member of the Virginia Association for Adult and Continuing Education (VAACE) and the Coalition on Basic Adult Education (COABE).