RRMR sees preschool success with implementation of SDI

RRMR preschool SDI team Sue Paulus, Mardith DeGroote, Emily Hamilton, Lindsey Humpal and Allyssa Pape


Preschool is not just about naptime and recess. Preschool provides opportunities for children to learn about academics, self-control, listening and social and emotional skills. Children learn more than just how to take turns and share, it’s here that their excitement for the process of learning takes root. For the past three years, Rudd-Rockford-Marble Rock (RRMR) preschool has been using the Specially Designed Instruction (SDI) learning framework to make a difference in their students’ lives with support from Central Rivers AEA.

Specially Designed Instruction (SDI) is an instructional framework that is specifically customized to a particular student. This framework is very systematic – it helps school leaders and educators understand a student’s learning needs to design a learning plan that focuses on exactly what the student is missing and also what is needed to improve. While the SDI framework is designed to help students with disabilities, the process is helpful for all students.

The SDI team is made up of RRMR and Central Rivers AEA (CRAEA) leaders and staff including Jody Albertson, Regional Administrator with CRAEA, Lindsey Humpal and Allyssa Pape, Consultants for Early Childhood, Mardith DeGroote, Early Childhood Special Education Consultant, Bri Backer, Speech-Language Pathologist, Lisa Litterer, Occupational Therapist, Sue Paulus, preschool teacher, Emily Hamilton, Early-Childhood Special Educator and Makaela Hoffman, RRMR Elementary Principal.

Makaela Hoffman, RRMR Elementary Principal/Curriculum Coordinator, has noticed a positive difference in her school. “We are in our third year of SDI work and the difference it is making for our kids is remarkable! Helping teach students routines and expectations have catapulted learning in the classroom,” said Hoffman. “While the learning was great before, the added work around SDI has allowed RRMR to have one of the best preschool programs in North Iowa.”

“When we teach students what we want them to know and be able to do with modeling, pictures and re-teaching, it’s so fun to watch.” By creating routines for students, RRMR has created predictability amongst their preschoolers so they know what to expect. These routines have helped with behavior issues caused by lack of communication because the students know what is expected of them. “To watch the classroom unfold during our time of learning and growing has been amazing to watch,” said Hoffman.

“RRMR has enthusiastically engaged in the learning and implementation of strategies to help their students be successful. When we have other preschools in the area who are looking for a good model, we send them to RRMR,” said Albertson.

While the preschool has had immense success with SDI initiatives being implemented in their classrooms, the RRMR team recognizes that successful SDI implementation is hard work. “The Central Rivers AEA team has been phenomenal,” said Hoffman. “They have done the teaching, offered support and challenged the thinking of the team all while encouraging the team to keep moving forward. It’s hard work… really tough at times, but CRAEA has supported our team to keep going.” Now in year three, Hoffman and her team are excited to see the progress of their SDI work, with the help CRAEA has offered every step of the way.

Schools that wish to launch similar initiatives and programs need to know a few important details:

  • Districts that are interested in SDI should just jump in if they have a desire to learn and make things better for their students.
  • Everyone (teachers, paraeducators, administrators, etc.) can be a part of the SDI team and should be to gain the most momentum and support.
  • Student success does not happen overnight – constant teaching/training updates will be necessary to ensure the best practices for students are happening.
  • Contact your local AEA to help guide you through the process and get the proper resources and people involved.

For more information on the SDI framework or how CRAEA can support districts, contact Jody Albertson, CRAEA Regional Administrator at jalbertson@centralriversaea.org or Makaela Hoffman, RRMR Elementary Principal/Curriculum Coordinator at mhoffman@rockford.k12.ia.us.