ELP graduate honored for transformative leadership

Xiaguang Peng, who helped expand multiple disability education in China, receives Howe-Fisher Founders Award

Xiaguang Peng, holding flowers and the award, poses with Lisa Jacobs and Michael Delaney.

Xiaguang Peng, center, graduated from the Educational Leadership Program (ELP) in 1994.

January 29, 2018

Xiaguang Peng has dedicated her career to improving multiple disability education in China.

When she first arrived on Perkins’ campus in the early 1990s as a participant in the Educational Leadership Program (ELP), there were virtually no educational services in her home country for children with multiple disabilities.

Today there are programs serving thousands of kids across China.

Xiaguang, who works at the National Institute of Education Sciences in Beijing, has played an integral role in this transformation. On Jan. 22, Perkins International Executive Director Michael Delaney presented Xiaguang with the prestigious Howe-Fisher Founders Award in recognition of her career achievements.

“You’ve made Perkins International very proud,” Delaney said during an award presentation at Beijing School for the Blind. “More children with multiple disabilities and visual impairment in China are receiving the education they need to live full, productive lives thanks to your commitment and leadership within our field.”

Awarded in recognition of transformative leadership, the Howe-Fisher Founders Award is named after Samuel Gridley Howe and John Dix Fisher, two luminaries in Perkins School for the Blind’s storied history. Fisher founded Perkins in 1829 as the first school for the blind in the United States, while Howe served as Perkins’ first director.

Xiaguang is just the third recipient of the award. It was first presented in 2015 to Steven Hilton and Donald Hubbs, central figures in the founding of the Hilton-Perkins Program. The program was later renamed Perkins International.

Xiaguang graduated from Perkins International’s ELP in 1994, spending nine months on Perkins’ historic campus in Watertown, Massachusetts.

“At the beginning I was just like blank white paper,” she told Perspectives magazine in 2014. “But after one year in the ELP, I was full of color.”

In her job at the National Institute of Education Sciences, which serves as the Chinese government’s pedagogical research arm, Xiaguang has served as a key liaison between Perkins International and the Ministry of Education. This ongoing collaboration has resulted in the successful launch and ongoing expansion of programs for children with multiple disabilities throughout the world’s most populous nation.

One of Xiaguang’s most significant contributions came in 2015, when the national government enacted new regulations mandating that all children with multiple disabilities be accepted in special schools.

“That decision marked a major breakthrough,” said Deborah Gleason, Perkins International’s director of Asia/Pacific programs. “And Peng was instrumental in making it all possible. Her contributions to the field of education of children with multiple disabilities have had an immensely positive impact on the children of China, as well as their families and teachers.”