2013 CHADD Educator of the Year Award
Billie Abney, DC, PC
Dr. Billie Abney didn’t begin her career as a teacher, but as a chiropractor. During her early fifties, she retooled herself for a second career in education. For the last seven years, she has taught high school anatomy, physics, chemistry, forensics, environmental science, and biology.
“The most impressive aspect of Dr. Abney’s teaching,” an administrator from the Whitfield County Schools wrote to CHADD, “is the care and concern she has for her students and colleagues. When she designs instruction, she has every child in mind and ensures that all students will be successful. Her instructional approach is an ideal model for differentiated instruction. She is especially passionate about children with ADHD.” Another school administrator wrote, “Because of her innovative hands-on teaching methods, students at all learning levels have been successful.”
Nothing prepares a teacher better for effectively teaching students with ADHD than having personally lived that experience. Dr. Abney knows firsthand what it’s like to struggle to memorize multiplication tables and remember and complete homework assignments. As a child, she endured discouraging years of being compared unfavorably with older siblings. She didn’t give up on herself, however. She discovered tennis and ultimately became a national intercollegiate tennis champion and a successful student with professional and advanced degrees.
Dr. Abney’s innovative teaching strategies utilize approaches known to be effective for students with ADHD and executive function deficits. She utilizes high-interest, interactive, hands-on learning activities and she embraces modern technology. After completing her review of the literature on EF deficits for her dissertation, she realized students who struggle in school must be taught key executive skills such as organization and memorization. Thus, she begins each school year by teaching organizational skills and talks with her students about their brains, how the brain works, and how they can improve their memory skills.
School administrators tell us there are always waiting lists for Dr. Abney’s rigorous anatomy classes, testimony to the fact that she has discovered how to make academic success possible for all students—even when academic content is challenging. One year she was assigned twenty seniors who had previously failed a science course that was required for graduation. Through her intensive, hands-on teaching methods, all the students passed the class; 73 percent made a score of 90 percent mastery on the standardized final exam.
One school administrator shared stories of visits to Dr. Abney’s classroom. “One day she was standing on top of the lab table with a vacuum inflating swine lungs, explaining all the intricacies of the pulmonary system. Another day all the students looked like they were dressed for surgery as they had pig knees and were studying joints. Dr. Abney explained the anatomy but made it come to live with YouTube videos of people getting knee injuries while skateboarding. She then asks, ‘What bones and muscles were involved?’ She found a local slaughterhouse to donate specimens because she was told there was no money to buy these materials. Another time she had a “TENS” machine from her former practice where she was running a current through students’ arms, making them open and close their hands involuntarily. They were mesmerized!”
In 2009, Dr. Abney traveled to Saudi Arabia to speak to the ADHD Support Group of Saudi Arabia in conjunction with the King Faisal Hospital and Research Center. She was part of a team that advised the Saudis on best practices for students with ADHD. True to her innovative style, Dr. Abney organized and led Skype exchanges so the Saudi educators could collaborate with staff at her home school back in Georgia.
Dr. Abney has presented on ADHD and executive function deficits at numerous national and international conferences, including at CHADD’s annual conference for the past five years.
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