PhD Education, Exceptionalities-Track Student
"A challenge, investment in yourself, or learning opportunity is always a good idea and worth pursuing. It is not supposed to be easy and will never feel like the perfect time to do so, but the work you put in today can open doors or lead to opportunities you cannot see until tomorrow."
New Paltz, NY
- PhD, Education: Exceptionalities
What is your current position?
I am currently employed as a Learning Support Specialist at Punahou School. My primary role is to partner with the school administration, deans, counselors, parents, and classroom teachers to design and implement comprehensive strategies and personalized support plans for individual students with learning needs.
How did you become interested in the field of special education/exceptionalities?
I remember my interest in becoming a teacher as early as kindergarten when I wrote it in my Dr. Seuss book. From there, I paid close attention to all the teachers I had and admired on my learning journey. Upon my high school graduation, I was fortunate to have many mentors guiding me toward a dual certificate program for teaching, where my experiences after that solidified my desire to work within the special education field and with exceptional learners.
Why did you choose to pursue the PhD Education, Exceptionalities-Track program?
I wanted to deepen my knowledge of exceptional learners in the beginning stages of literacy and reach more of the struggling student population I support in my daily role as a learning specialist. With over twenty years of experience teaching special education ranging in age from preschool to high school, I needed more and felt the path of a Ph.D. program would provide the avenue to learn more about the best approaches and most effective, evidence-based interventions in reading instruction.
To learn more about Kathleen’s research, check out p. 10 in our April 2023 SPED Monthly Newsletter.
What has been the best part of the program experience so far?
I have had the great fortune to learn from my professors’ expertise and creative and unique teaching methods. They offer various activities and opportunities to explore our interests and ideas while supporting each learner’s selected path with appropriate resources, direction, and feedback. Additionally, I am inspired by the stories and insight from my doctoral cohort of like-minded educators, and I will cherish these relationships and friendships indefinitely.
In what ways do you hope to make a difference using the knowledge you have gained?
The program has added depth and breadth to my current knowledge base. It continues to sharpen my skills that directly impact and improve the learning, development, and experience of one of our most precious resources — children. My research focuses on early intervention for dyslexia and other related reading challenges. A Ph.D. in this area will further strengthen the skills needed to be a leader or agent of change in an educational community. Utilizing data, building resources, having a vision and a plan, empowering teachers, and cultivating collaborative, inclusive environments are critical traits in today’s educational field.
What words of advice would you give to people looking to pursue this program?
A challenge, investment in yourself, or learning opportunity is always a good idea and worth pursuing. It is not supposed to be easy and will never feel like the perfect time to do so, but the work you put in today can open doors or lead to opportunities you cannot see until tomorrow. As an educator, our learning is never done; keep growing.
How are the people and the program in the COE helping you along your way?
The COE faculty provide a tremendous source of support and excels in directly teaching candidates about the process, experiences, and evolution of being a doctoral student from the beginning. The COE faculty and staff are a kind, pragmatic, genuine group with deep knowledge, experience, and willingness to share personal stories, time, and resources for their students’ understanding and success. They are hard-working, always available, and responsive to help us solve problems confidently. In navigating writing or research challenges, COE faculty consistently encourages and enhances our communication with different stakeholders, ultimately leading to more positive contributions to our field of special education. While starting at the base of a proverbial mountain, I have felt supported with each step I take toward the summit.
Have you received any funding for your program? If yes, which one and how has it supported you on this journey?
I received the STAR Achievement Scholarship, and this award helped me capitalize on completing summer coursework to balance my workload during the fall and spring semesters.
What are your post-program plans?
I am still determining what my post-program plans are at this point, but I am excited to explore more the further I proceed in the program.