An educator devoted to improving the lives of special education students in Little Rock will be the guest of honor at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock eighth annual Jazz & Juleps event.
The Thursday, May 25, event, which celebrates Better Speech and Hearing Month, will be held at the Clinton Presidential Library in downtown Little Rock. Doors open at 6 p.m. There will be a silent auction and a live auction will begin at 7:30 p.m. Craig O’Neill of KTHV will serve as the special guest auctioneer.
The honoree, Cassandra Steele, is the director of special programs for theLittle Rock School District, where she previously held the position of coordinator of speech and hearing services for 14 years.
“It’s exciting to be honored, but I consider myself more of a behind-the-scenes person,” Steele said. “The things I have accomplished for children with hearing and speech-language disorders are very rewarding, but it’s not something for which I seek credit out front. I enjoy seeing the improvement in communicative skills and partnering with parents and individuals in the community to better lives for children with hearing and speech disorders.”
In her role at Little Rock School District, Steele oversees nearly 60 speech pathologists and more than 200 special education teachers who work with the more than 2,700 students who receive special education lessons within the district.
“My job is one of those jobs that touches the lives of so many different people from all backgrounds,” she said. “It just crosses all cultures, all socioeconomic backgrounds. Serving children and serving people with disabilities is one of those things that you just love.”
Among her accomplishments is the formation of a parent advisory committee to help guide professional development for teachers and to serve as a resource for parents of children with disabilities. She also formed a partnership with educators from Japan to facilitate a learning environment for Japanese students with disabilities.
In the higher education arena, she helped establish a partnership that started during the 2016-17 school year that allows 10 audiology and speech pathology graduate students from UA Little Rock and University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences to earn practical experience and stipends by working with students in Little Rock School District.
Steele, who graduated from UA Little Rock in 1988, was previously recognized as the 2014 UA Little Rock Alumni of the Year for the College of Education and Health Professions for her outstanding service on the Audiology and Speech Pathology Development Council. She is the first graduate of the audiology and speech pathology department to be named the Jazz & Juleps honoree.
Steele and her husband, former state Sen. Tracy Steele, live in North Little Rock and have two children. Their daughter, Sumone, is a sophomore at Tennessee State University and their son, Tracy, is an eighth-grader at North Little Rock Middle School.
She belongs to multiple organizations whose missions encourage quality of life and leadership, including the local chapter of the American Heart Association, Greater Little Rock Chapter of Jack & Jill of America, the Council for Exceptional Children, and the American Speech-Language & Hearing Association.