Expand AU Menu

Special Education | Selected Student Profiles

Vin Testa

What is your academic/professional background prior to coming to AU?

I graduated with a Bachelor of Arts and Sciences degree in 2011 from Salve Regina University in Newport, RI; I double majored in Secondary Education and Mathematics. After graduation, I moved down to Washington, DC in order to pursue a career in DC Public Schools. I was hired at Theodore Roosevelt Senior High School and am currently in my third year of teaching Algebra 1 and Geometry. This year, I was given the role of Department Chair, as well as being the LGBT Liaison and Testing Coordinator.



Why did you choose AU, and the MA in Special Education: Learning Disabilities in particular?

When I decided to get my Master's, I looked at all of the DC-area schools. I knew that I was interested in Special Education, but the fact that AU's program was so specific to Learning Disabilities really intrigued me. The school I teach at serves a population where almost 30 percent of students receive special education services, so even though I don't plan on transitioning into a self-contained classroom, the program seemed extremely beneficial in order to help my students with learning disabilities.



Have you worked on any specific research projects that you would like to highlight?

Currently, I'm taking the assessment class with Dr. Durham and the behavior disorders class with Dean Belson; both of them have us completing projects that have really sparked my interest. Dr. Durham has me working with one of my students on a skill (in this case long division), collecting baseline data, creating intervention lessons, and working with the student in order to work on and perfect that skill. Dean Belson has us completing a behavior change project where we select a student (or someone we work/live with), identify a behavior that should be changed, and collecting data based on interventions we put in place. Being a math teacher, I really love and appreciate the data collection that both of those projects require.



Can you describe what you are working on at your current internship/job?

Being a full-time math teacher, I'm currently working in a general education classroom and the major thing we're working on is the implementation of the Common Core State Standards in order to prepare our students for the new wave of testing, known as the PARCC test. My day-to-day life is mostly based on properly balancing my teaching and attending grad school.



Brian Koh

What is your academic/professional background prior to coming to AU?

Prior to attending American University, I received my undergraduate degree from Georgetown University majoring in Government with a focus on International Relations and minoring in Economics.After graduation, I returned home to California then moved to Houston, Texas to spend a year working with the Apollo 20 program in the Houston Independent School District.  After my year in Houston, I moved back to Washington D.C. to become a DC Teaching Fellow focusing in Special Education, while spending my first year at Septima Clark Public Charter School.



Why did you choose AU, and the MA in Special Education: Learning Disabilities in particular?

The reason I chose American University was the opportunity it provided me to grow as an educator in the field of special education. After reading the SETH overview, one of the main statements that grabbed my attention was, "All individuals have the ability to access, participate, and progress in education."This statement aligns with my educational view and I knew that being a part of the MA in Special Education would allow me to continue to develop the tools and skills necessary to be an effective teacher. Also, the close relationship between American University and the Lab School of Washington was a great opportunity to learn and apply the Sally Smith methodology.



Have you worked on any specific research projects that you would like to highlight?

I currently have not had an opportunity to work on specific research projects but look forward to in Dean Belson's Research Seminar in Special Education.



Can you describe what you are working on at your current internship/job?

Currently, I am a first through fourth grade Special Education Resource Room teacher with Friendship Public Charter Schools at Blow Pierce Junior Academy.I provide students with individualized curriculum instruction focused on developing academic and social skills to help students with Individual Educational Plans be successful in and out of the general education classroom.Also, I am tasked with developing Individual Educational Plans for students that qualify for special education services.  



Amber Owens, Alumna

What is your academic/professional background prior to coming to AU?
Prior to attending AU, I received my undergraduate degree from THE Ohio State University, where I became a proud member of Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Inc. After graduation from OSU I graciously served as a City Year Corps member in Columbus, Ohio. I worked for four years for an insurance company which allowed me to spend some time in the state of Wisconsin.

Why did you choose AU, and the MA in Special Education: Learning Disabilities in particular?
I choose AU due to it’s vast variety of education paths at the Masters level. I was actually undecided between Elementary education and Special Education days prior to starting my program. I felt, now know, that AU’s Special Education program was the correct path for my professional growth. The program provides instruction from extremely knowledgeable professors with vast experiences.

Have you worked on any specific research projects that you would like to highlight?
I am currently working on a research project that looks to better understand how information that is being tested is selected for standardized testing. I am primarily looking at testing that is delivered to urban school districts such as district wide testing and testing the Special Education eligibility.

Can you describe what you are working on at your current internship/job?

Currently I am a Special Education teacher and project coordinator for a local high school. I am pleased to learning on a daily basis what makes a great classroom work as well as an educational institution. With the passion I have to lead within the academic arena I have taken the lead as the Graduate President of the College of Arts and Sciences.
 

Maya Grigorovich-Barsky, Alumna

What is your academic/professional background prior to coming to AU?
I grew up overseas, coming to the United States for the first time to attend college. I completed my Bachelor of Arts in Sociology and Psychology at Villanova and UMass. Currently, I work at a nonprofit organization called America's Promise Alliance, which is the nation’s largest partnership dedicated to improving the lives of children and youth. We bring together more than 400 national organizations representing nonprofits, businesses, communities, educators and policymakers. Building on the legacy of founding chairman, General Colin Powell, we are a strong and effective partnership alliance committed to ensuring children experience the fundamental resources they need to succeed.

Why did you choose AU, and the MA in Special Education: Learning Disabilities in particular?

America’s Promise Alliance launched the Grad Nation campaign in 2010, which is now a large and growing movement of dedicated individuals, organizations and communities working together to end America’s high school dropout crisis. While working on this mission, I personally became concerned that students with learning disabilities did not have adequate preparation for mandated state assessments. Amid new school accountability policies and stiffer promotion and graduation requirements, what interventions work to lower an unacceptably high dropout rate for students with disabilities? I wanted answers to this question, and therefore decided to enroll in the MA in Special Education: Learning Disabilities program at AU.

What makes AU so special to me? First and foremost, I attribute AU's uniqueness to the quality of the people, both educators and students. AU's distinguished faculty have a long history of success in attracting competitive research funding. And in the global race for talent, smart people attract other smart people. AU draws outstanding students from around the world.

Additionally, AU's long tradition of collaboration also positions the school to make an outstanding contribution in our rapidly changing world - one in which the most exciting breakthroughs are being made across disciplines and where strong global networks are key to success.

Have you worked on any specific research projects that you would like to highlight?
I have yet to be involved in a specific research project at AU, but would very much like to bridge the gap between my work life and school life, and get America's Promise involved with the research being done at AU.

Nicole Scifo, Alumna

What is your academic/professional background prior to coming to AU?
I completed my Bachelors of Science in Communication at the University of Miami (Florida), double majoring in Video/Film and Economics with a minor in Secondary English Education. Upon graduation, I moved back to my hometown in New York, where I started working as a teacher aide in the school division of a residential therapeutic facility for girls with trauma in their background. Many of these girls had diagnosed behavioral/emotional disorders and/or learning disabilities. I originally started working in this school to fill my days while I looked for a job in the TV production industry, but I soon came to realize that these girls needed a more qualified teacher than I was at that moment and that I wanted to become the teacher they needed. I was also inspired by nannying for a family that had adopted 13 children with varying special needs and seeing the life-changing work they were doing with their children.

Why did you choose AU, and the MA in Special Education: Learning Disabilities in particular?

AU and the SE:LD program were the clear choices for two reasons. First, no other Dean and staff were as hands-on, welcoming, helpful, and knowledgeable as Dean Belson and the SETH faculty and staff. I received personal emails answering all my questions and had face-to-face meetings on several occasions. This treatment has only increased once I officially joined the program. Secondly, SETH’s partnership with the Lab School is unparalleled. The theoretical framework learned in classes is immediately applicable in the full-year internship at the Lab School. Now that I am nearing the end of the program, I am confident and comfortable in the classroom, knowing that I have not only learned, but practiced research-based techniques with a variety of students.

Have you worked on any specific research projects that you would like to highlight?

This past summer, I had the opportunity to work with Dr. Alida Anderson on two of her research projects. I conducted assessments for students with and without learning disabilities to measure language prosody (the ability to detect rhythm patterns). I also helped collect and code transcripts for a study on the effects of arts-integration on student and teacher language use. These opportunities, not only offered me an up-close look at how research is conducted, but seamlessly complimented what I was learning in my classes and implemented in my internship.

Can you describe what you are working on at your current internship/job?

I currently work as a graduate assistant for SETH, but I am also student teaching for a second certification in Secondary English Education. The techniques and experience I gained during my first year in the SE:LD program have improved my teaching in this subject area exponentially. The best practices for students with learning disabilities are best practices for all students and only help you serve general education students in a more comprehensive manner.