Q&A with a special educator
Pamela Wruble, Ph.D., shares her thoughts on Jesuit education
February 7, 2017
In all departments at Loyola, you find professors who embody the Jesuit difference and mentor students. Pamela Wruble, Ph.D., visiting assistant affiliate professor of special education, is one of those professors, especially as she engages communities in active experience and service learning.
Casey Cunningham, ’17, sat down to ask her a few questions for Loyola magazine.
Tell me about your background.
I was a special education teacher in Pittsburgh for six years, teaching middle and high school students with behavioral disorders, and then also students with learning disabilities and language issues. As a special educator, I was often frustrated when I felt that not all decisions that were made were in my students’ best interest. I felt that many decisions were made from the school’s best interest, or from a budgetary perspective. I observed that there were a lot of individuals who did not know how to communicate well with parents. Parents look to school professionals for insight, and I did not see that happening. I decided to go back to school and get my Ph.D. in Special Education to learn how to help students and parents to the best of my ability.
What does the Jesuit difference mean to you? Did Loyola help to form or shape what it meant to you?
The Jesuit difference is automatic for me. My father and sister are physicians, and my mother works in the area of mental health. All have been great examples of serving the community. I did not come to Loyola because of the Jesuit mission, but the job has introduced me to and made me more cognizant of the Jesuit mission and difference. I feel the meaning and mission of the Jesuit difference goes hand-in-hand with special education.
How do you tie in Jesuit difference and values with your lectures?
When I am teaching my students, I think the most powerful teaching tool I have is my experience. I use a lot of personal stories, and at times personal beliefs, to help explain concepts. My students don’t have classroom experience yet, so I try to use examples from my own and I try to have the students experience things. Research shows that you best learn something when you get to actively practice. I am teaching and encouraging the students to be active participants and volunteers in the community. They will get more practice from actually doing it.
Describe an experience collaborating with students outside the classroom.
I am the faculty moderator for the Student Council for Exceptional Children Club (SCECC). There is a national organization called the Council for Exceptional Children (CEC), which has a good reputation for supporting teachers of students with special needs. Outside of Loyola, I am on the executive board for our state chapter of Council for Exceptional Children and I am the up-and-coming co-president-elect. Relating it to the club at Loyola is an extension of the professional organization. Previously our students had been doing bake sales and fundraising, which is great, but I wanted to do more active, service-oriented events.
Now that I am able to work with our students on a consistent basis, the first big event we recently organized was a family photo event. A board member from the Autism Society of Baltimore-Chesapeake contacted me to organize and run an event with Loyola’s SCECC.
Children with autism do not like to be in loud unfamiliar crowded places. So for families with children who have those characteristics, it is challenging to go get a picture taken with Santa at the mall, or even go to the grocery store. The Autism Society thought Loyola’s campus would be a great place to have the event because it is a neutral environment that we can control. It worked out really well, and about 30 families came to campus to get their pictures taken. I handled some of the logistics, but our students ran the event from start to finish. I am so proud of our student club and volunteers!