MEd in Special Education and BCBA-Track Course Sequence Graduate
“Looking at life through the lens of Applied Behavior Analysis has not only helped me to be a better educator, but a better parent, friend, and partner as well. Becoming well versed in the fundamentals of ABA will open doors throughout a lifetime…”
- MEd, SPED: BCBA
- BCBA/BCaBA Course Sequence
*In 2019, the Hawaii Department of Education (HIDOE) partnered with the Department of Special Education to provide funding for 40 DOE personnel to pursue licensure as Behavior Analysts. Patricia Gorski is a recipient of this funded opportunity.
As the recipient of DOE stipend funding* to pursue this program, please share how that supported/impacted you.
Without the support of the stipend, it would have taken additional years before I started the verified course sequence (VCS) at the COE. I would have struggled financially to complete the BCBA program on my own.
Where do you work?
I currently work as a special education teacher at Kekaulike High School where I teach students in the 11th and 12 grades the skills needed to prepare them for their post-graduation goals.
How did you become interested in special education?
When I enrolled as an elementary major at SCSU, they offered a dual certification in special education as well. Knowing I wanted to reach all of my students the best I could, I thought it wise to leave college with the dual certification. Along my coursework, I became inspired by my special education professors and the guest speakers who came in to talk about their work. I learned about a local residential program for adults with cognitive disabilities, Chapel Haven, in New Haven, Connecticut, where I later worked for three years as I earned my undergrad. I fell in love with teaching individuals with special needs at Chapel Haven while teaching them essential life skills.
Why did you choose to pursue this program?
I chose to pursue the Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) VCS after completing the MEd in Special Education at the COE where I learned a great deal about Applied Behavior Analysis. Through my master’s program, I had already completed three of the six required courses for the VCS and figured it was a natural direction for my career path to follow, especially with my newfound interest in ABA.
What was the best part of the program for you?
The best part of the VCS program was definitely applying what I had learned in my own classroom under the supervision of my amazing supervisors, Heather Chapman and Roxanne Bristol. I had struggled with how to break down and apply the instructional models and approaches I had learned in the grad program (I had worked back then with students who had severe disabilities) to my new position working with diploma-track students. I learned that ABA can be used across settings and individuals, regardless of ability or age. I learned that I can uᾱse ABA to really enrich the lives others, and it is not a practice reserved for just for the benefit of individuals with autism or severe disabilities.
What advice or recommendations would you give to someone who is interested in this program?
Go for it! Applied Behavior Analysis is fundamental in understanding the behavior of all living things, human and animal alike. Looking at life through the lens of ABA has not only helped me to be a better educator, but a better parent, friend, and partner as well. Becoming well versed in the fundamentals of ABA will open doors throughout a lifetime as it can be used in so many settings for a variety of amazing outcomes.
In what ways do you hope to make a difference using the knowledge you have gained?
I hope to use what I have learned throughout my MEd and ABA VCS at UH Mānoa to work with the community to better serve individuals with maladaptive behaviors so that they might have a brighter future. So much good can be done for individuals who have experienced trauma through therapeutic applications of ABA.
How did the people and the program in the COE help you along your way to becoming a teacher?
I had wonderful supervisors who helped me problem-solve when I encountered obstacles, professors who shared invaluable life experiences, and my colleagues in the program with whom I bonded as we waded through the often-complex waters of ABA.
What are your future plans?
I plan to work as a BCBA within the next year. In the next couple of years, I hope to begin the Psy D program at UH Mānoa with a focus on clinical psychology. I hope to do my dissertation on how to best incorporate ABA in therapeutic settings, using approaches such as Acceptance and Commitment Therapy. From there, I hope to someday use all that I have learned to create or help establish an alternative learning center on Maui to provide a nurturing learning environment and support individuals who have experienced trauma in overcoming maladaptive behaviors.
Anything else you would like to share?
The professors absolutely make this program amazing. They were inspiring and passionate about special education and behavior. Their lust for learning was contagious!