As a psychology major at Whitman College, I developed a passion for using the principles of applied behavior analysis (ABA) to teach preschoolers with autism. I found it highly rewarding to teach children to do things they had never done before. I then became a supervisor of a group home for children with a range of different disabilities. This was a humbling experience. I realized that I still had a lot to learn about how to effectively teach and improve the lives of children with disabilities and it motivated me to go to graduate school. During my master's degree program, I learned to teach language, reading, writing, spelling, and math using scientifically-validated curricula that were also based on ABA principles. At this time, I had the opportunity to be a teacher of students with traumatic brain injuries and other neurological disorders. While in my doctorate program, I was also involved in a peer-tutoring reading project where I was responsible for teaching high-performing high schoolers to peer tutor classmates using direct instruction programs. I began my faculty position at Eastern Washington University in 2000 while still completing my doctoral dissertation. Since that time, I have pursued research related to effective language and literacy instruction for students with disabilities, earned my certification as a school psychologist, and continued to promote the use of evidence-based practices in our public schools.
Which classes do you teach online?
Special Education courses.
In what ways do you connect with online students?
I connect with my online students by sharing my personal stories of teaching students with disabilities and asking my students to relate material to own experiences. My online students and I have the opportunity to connect through online discussions, live Zoom sessions, email, and detailed feedback in audio, video, and/or written form.
What do you want your students to take away from class?
I want my student to gain confidence to teach using evidence-based practices and develop a passion for improving the lives of students with disabilities to the greatest extent possible.
What advice would you give to your online students?
My online students need three things to be successful: a passion for improving the lives of students with disabilities, a desire to use research evidence as the basis for their practices in the field, and a willingness to learn as much as they can while in their master's program and throughout their careers.
What qualities make someone particularly successful as an educator?
Successful teachers carry a sense of urgency to teach their students as effectively and efficiently as possible so that eventually their students won't need them anymore. Although teaching can be one of the most rewarding professions, teaching should not [be] about the teacher. Teaching is about meeting the needs of the students you are responsible for in the best possible way. Your greatest reward for teaching should be seeing your students be able to do things they couldn’t do before you started working with them.
Why did you start teaching?
I see so many teachers in our field who teach like a master, but I also see teachers who teach like they don't even want to be in the classroom. My motivation for teaching in higher education was to be part of teaching others to be the masters of teaching. In special education, we are charged with the responsibility to teach the most vulnerable students with the greatest levels of needs. There is an amazing body of research that can guide us in how to do this well. It excites me to be a part of contributing to that body of research and to teach others how to use those practices with their future students. My greatest reward as a university professor is to see my students in the field improving the lives of students with disabilities.
What is the one book you think everyone should read?
The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein.
What do you do when you need a laugh?
Tell jokes with my kids!
Tell us something interesting about yourself that your students may not know.
I have a turtle named Pumpkin that I got on Halloween when I was seven years old.
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