Putting Research into Practice

Gerald MorenoIn Lech Walesa Hall-420, among standard university classroom settings, lies a colorful diversion - a room containing miniature chairs, vivid posters and other school-friendly props. The William Itkin Center is a classroom and a class. It is a practicum course for students who are earning their Master of Arts in special education, and the decor is a reflection of its clients and purpose.

William Itkin Center clients are school-age students, ranging from six to 18 years old, who are usually diagnosed with a learning disability. The Center is listed on many referral databases; however, its primary source of student-clients comes from word-of-mouth recommendations. The purpose of this center is to provide graduate students with practical experience in instructional teaching and creating individualized plans for their client-students.

Gerardo Moreno, associate professor, special education, said, "It's about putting research into practice, where education meets humanity. Graduate students learn how to teach, but it doesn't mean anything if they don't know how to work with students."

The year-round classes that take place in the William Itkin Center typically operate in three seasonal cycles on Mondays and Wednesdays from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. The fall cycle is from September through December, the spring cycle is from January through April, and the summer cycle is for the month of June. All classes are held in LWH-420, and the grading for the graduate students is based on evaluations of their level of planning, quality of assessment, and ability to communicate and collaborate with the entire class.

Moreno said, "It's the best of both worlds. Graduate students have said this is their favorite course because it's practical, and our clients and their parents are happy. I love being able to facilitate that."

The William Itkin Center began with grant money in the late 1970s to assist students majoring in learning behavioral science I (LBS I) in the department of special education with internships opportunities. Graduate students are given an opportunity to prepare individualized diagnostic instruction and create individual education plans for their students.

Since Moreno started in 2008, he has upgraded the Center to reflect different themes. He said, "When I first came the furniture was not very kid-friendly, so my first goal was getting new furniture."

This year's theme focuses on technology. This year each graduate student will be assigned an iPad to record each client-student?s progress. In 2012, Moreno intends on initiating follow-ups on client-students as well as graduate-students to check the effectiveness of the Center.

Sandra Beyda-Lorie, associate professor and chair, special education, said, "Dr. Moreno has transformed this on-campus clinic to a state-of-the-art facility using the latest technology for area children and youth who need academic assessment and support."