School name: SUNY, Buffalo State University
Type of school: Urban-engaged, diverse public school; we offer undergraduate and graduate degrees with a few (soon to be more) doctoral programs.
School locale (including state and country): Buffalo, NY, USA
How many years have you taught psychology? None- LOL. I am a special education teacher and teach in the department of Exceptional Education housed within the School of Education. We prepare candidates to become special educators at the undergraduate and graduate level. I started as an adjunct in 2003 and became full-time faculty in 2012
Classes you teach: I teach all of our early childhood special education classes at the graduate level (Assessment, Intervention/Instruction, Managing Behavior, Emergent Literacy and Cognition) as well as some ABA courses, and an Overview of ASD class. I also co-teach a course with faculty from our SLP program called “Sign Language For Students With Autism And Developmental Disabilities”All of my courses are designated as service learning, so we are out in the community, working with children and families.
Specialization (if applicable): e.g., clinical, cognitive, teaching, etc. Teaching and service, specifically autism spectrum disorder, early childhood special education
Average class size: 20-25
What is the best advice about teaching you have ever received? Take what you do well and run with it! (Note: a glimpse into my room would most likely show a flipped classroom with small group discussions)
What book or article has shaped your work as a psychology teacher? This is a tough question. Probably the “white book,” Applied Behavior Analysis by Cooper, Heron, and Heward.
Briefly tell us about your favorite lecture topic or course to teach. I am fairly behavioral, so I like teaching anything that relates to evidence-based ABA practices. I also love teaching early childhood language/literacy/cognition as we bring in a lot of content from storybooks and television/movies. Kids’ television shows get a bad rap but there is gold there if you look for it
Briefly describe a favorite assignment or in-class activity. I have two assignments that are pretty closely related. We discuss quality indicators for young children’s literature and then closely examine our favorite children’s book from our past to see how it measures up. We discuss why we loved it as a child and then align it to quality indicators. We do the same thing with our favorite children’s show. It is eye opening. My students are often shocked to see how much garbage is thrown at us by marketers and learn to appreciate the merits of well-done children’s media. I also have a pregnancy simulation long-term activity that we do to study development, using a real app called Ovia, but tweaked for our purposes. Students get a kick out of being pregnant, especially the rare male candidates I have from time to time.
What teaching and learning techniques work best for you? Reviewing new content as a class with many pauses for whole or small group responding (I like response cards or whiteboards) and then breaking into smaller groups to complete discussion and application activities. I love playing around with innovative ways to group students, especially in my early childhood courses, so that we are modeling good practices for their own classrooms. We use different techniques each day and discuss the “how” and “why” of each. By the end of the semester, I love that my students know everyone in the class well, and not just those that sit next to them. They also end up with a toolkit of ideas to use in their own classrooms.
What is your workspace like? A little more cluttered than I would like but time is always short, and the to-do list is always long. My workspace is often my dining room table as those COVID carry-over habits are hard to break. As corny as it sounds, I do try to make my workspace warm and inviting, especially if I am grading papers as I want to be in the best mood possible. I always light scented candles (warm vanilla), bring in as much natural sunlight as possible, and make sure to have a dog or two at my side.
Three words that best describe your teaching style. Interactive, genuine, confident.
What is your teaching philosophy in 8 words or fewer? Assess early and often.
Tell us about a teaching disaster (or embarrassment) you have had and how you dealt with the situation. I do not multitask well. Many years ago, as an adjunct, I was trying to talk while finding a video of Dwight from The Office to demonstrate a token economy system with Schrutte Bucks. Somehow I managed to pull up a video of two people engaged in a colorful act. We had snacks in class that day, so my students joked that I am the best professor ever – I feed them and show them porn
What about teaching do you find most enjoyable? Students, students, students! I love the interaction with them. Teaching is so rewarding in and of itself, but when you get to see students experience that “aha” moment, it is like winning the lottery, every day.
What is something your students would be surprised to learn about you? I started my career in journalism as I wanted to be a sportswriter. I love all sports, but especially my Buffalo Bills (the Bills Mafia is real and awesome), the Sabres, and most other professional sports with the exception of WWE. Is that even considered a professional sport? I honestly have no clue.
What are you currently reading for pleasure? I have been trying to start Simon Baron-Cohen’s The Pattern Seekers: How autism drives human invention for months but cannot seem to work it in. If I stopped aimlessly scrolling through my phone at night, I would find the time.
What tech tool could you not live without? There are several. I love Zoom (another COVID carryover) and am completely reliant upon my Outlook calendar, especially the reminders. I also really like the Bookings app on Microsoft Office, which is a gamechanger all the time, but especially during student advisement weeks. Flip is a great resource. I also really like Yuja for video quizzes.
What is your hallway chatter like? What do you talk to colleagues about most (whether or not it is related to teaching/school)? Buffalo Bills, kids, dogs, food, restaurants, cooking shows, stress, and how we need 36 hours in a day.
Has your teaching changed because of the Covid19 pandemic? If so, how? (positive and/or negative changes) My teaching dramatically changed because of COVID, mostly for the better. I streamlined my course content, and really concentrated on essential knowledge, skills, and dispositions. I rely heavily on the flipped classroom model and utilize technology as much as possible. I require my students to meet in small groups outside of class time and let them know they can invite me to pop into their meetings if they have questions or are stuck on a concept. I am also very deliberate about looking out for the well-being of my students (the teaching profession took a big hit during COVID) and have stolen an assignment from my friend, Pam Schuetze, that requires students to attend to their own self-care and reflect upon it. I assign points to it, which helps to ensure students will take it seriously and actually do something tangible for themselves to decompress.