Olivet Hosts Inaugural Kankakee Area Special Educators Symposium

Special educators gather to celebrate achievements and discuss best practices in the classroom.

Lauren Beatty

November 6, 2019 Academics

On October 11, 2019, more than 120 area educators, community partners, Olivet students and faculty gathered in Chalfant Hall on the campus of Olivet Nazarene University, for the first annual Kankakee Area Special Educators Symposium (KASES). 


Made possible through the generosity of alumni donors, Sharon (Urfer) ’77 and Jim Frias ’78, and coordinated by Dr. Brian Stipp ’02, professor in Olivet’s Special Education Teacher Program, and Dr. Lance Kilpatrick ’02, dean of the School of Education, the event sought to bring together like-minded professionals to facilitate discussions on special education.

In early 2018, Olivet received funding from the Frias family, who wanted to find ways to give back to Olivet and also support special education in the local Kankakee area.


The first project developed from the funding was the creation of the Exceptional Students Tutoring Lab — a weekly one-on-one tutoring opportunity for Olivet’s pre-service teachers to help students from the community at a low cost to families. KASES was developed as the second project in the mission investment to benefit current special educators in the area, as well as pre-service teachers in Olivet’s School of Education.

“The work of teaching students with disabilities can be demanding and the field can be isolating,” Dr. Stipp said. “Special educators often work alongside teams of general education teachers who do not share the same challenges, or the same vision for their work.”


Dr. Stipp coordinated the event with help from the KASES steering committee, which included Christine Segvich, Manteno Middle School; Meghan Domanszky, Noel LeVasseur Elementary; Sabrina McNeal, Kennedy Middle Grade School; and Kaelyn Bess, Bradley Bourbonnais Community High School.

As he welcomed the attendees to the event, Dr. Stipp said, “Considering that you all teach the most vulnerable children in our area, your work is critically important. Our hope is that this symposium will be a day of idea sharing, of vision casting and vision catching, of troubleshooting and problem solving.”

The one-day event featured keynote speaker, Judy Kilbride, networking opportunities and the recognition of the 2019 Special Educators of the Year, Sarah Matyskela ’17 and Vicki Anderson.


Additionally, Olivet students majoring in special education presented research snapshots to spark conversations around best practices and the theory versus reality of implementing classroom processes.


In his closing remarks, Dr. Stipp encouraged and affirmed the attendees, concluding, “If you have ever felt alone in your work as a special educator, I would like to invite you to stand up. Look around this room. I’m here to salute you, to honor you and tell you today that you are not alone.”

For more information on Olivet’s School of Education and other areas of study, contact the Office of Admissions at admissions@olivet.edu or 800-648-1463.

Photography: Image Group
Published: 11/07/19

Lauren Beatty

Lauren Beatty ’13 is a freelance writer, author, editor, artist and an adjunct professor in the Department of Communication at Olivet. She earned a Master of Arts degree in cross-cultural and sustainable business management from the American University of Paris in 2014. Her thesis explored the evolution of socially responsible business practices in America.

Student on main campus wearing pink sweater and holding water bottle.

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