by Julie Lineback

When University of West Georgia student Justin Lindsey began searching for a place to earn a doctoral degree that would allow him to challenge the current expectations and models in the field of education, he knew exactly where to turn.

Justin Lindsey“The College of Education’s Ed. D. program in School Improvement (EDSI) has a strong reputation for building educational leaders that are not only effective but are agents for positive change,” said Lindsey, an exceptional student services teacher at Calhoun Middle School. “It is a highly selective program that has graduates doing wonderful things across the globe.”

Lindsey was recently named the 2017-18 Educator of the Year at the Northwest Georgia Healthcare Partnership’s North Georgia Autism Conference.

In addition to teaching, he is the founder of the Calhoun Autism Network (CAN), a support group that provides a variety of resources for individuals with autism and their families in the Greater Calhoun-Gordon County area.

“CAN has had overwhelming support from the community during its first year of existence,” explained Lindsey, who founded the group in 2016. “CAN's success is due to the wonderful families and strong leaders who dedicate personal time and resources to the group.”

CAN meets on a monthly basis, with formats ranging from speakers and open floor discussions to get-togethers. The group is also an affiliate of the Autism Society of Georgia, which enables members to network with others throughout the state and learn additional ways in which they can support each other.

“Each day is filled with a new challenge that allows you to grow as an educator and gives you a chance to make a difference,” he shared.

Prior to his career in education, Lindsey worked at Calhoun City Schools through the community education department and with the Rome YMCA. This gave him a hands-on opportunity to work with students who had a variety of disabilities, which in turn allowed him to transition into the classroom later on that year.
Lindsey believes people who work with children with autism and their families share a number of important qualities.

“One needs to be patient, understanding and open-minded,” he explained. “On the other hand, your patience must not limit your expectations. You should have expectations that any child can be successful in the right environment, with the right support, and with consistency in the classroom. Another essential component to being successful in our field is being able to build relationships with the student and the parents. The relationship piece makes progress a reality.”

In addition to being named Educator of the Year, Lindsey was chosen to sit on the advisory council for the Anna Shaw Children's Institute, a new facility that is poised to become a regional leader of and advocate for the care of children who are experiencing the challenges of autism spectrum disorder and other developmental delays.

“The creation of this facility is a groundbreaking event that will be a life changer for years to come in north Georgia,” he said. “The council’s impact will be small in comparison to that of the workers at the center and the donors who helped create it.”

And although Lindsey has only been enrolled in the EDSI program for two semesters, he said his perspectives immediately changed.

“The expectations and curriculum that are in place challenge your thinking process, which allows you to grow as a scholar and an educator,” he described. “The content has been challenging, but it has also been applicable in the classroom and outside of the classroom in the community.”

Calhoun City Schools stresses the importance of a strong relationship with the community, and Lindsey added that COE has enabled him to further understand this concept.

“The curriculum at UWG allows you to realize the inner dynamics of the many happenings inside and outside of a school system,” he concluded. “Without this understanding, there is a limit on your potential for positive progress.”

Posted on January 29, 2018