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Vasti wants to address the needs of special education students

In the future, graduate student Vasti Rodriguez hopes to educate college students about special education, conduct research and implement change.

Rodriguez will couple the education received at East Carolina University with her experience in the education system in the Dominican Republic to become a great teacher.

Rodriguez attended school in the Dominican Republic from the beginning of her education until December 2001, when her family moved to the United States. She vividly remembers the difference between the two education systems, which is what drives her to improve the system in America for students who require more individual attention.

By educating Hispanic families about different mental and physical disabilities, Rodriguez wants to reduce discrimination for children with special needs and encourage the importance of their education. She said that through her experiences, she can convey to Hispanic parents the gravity of education.

“I went through a lot of situations and challenges, but I think being that teacher who takes the time for one-on-one (interaction), kind of like a psychologist, teacher and mentor at the same time…that’s very important,” said Rodriguez.

Rodriguez completed her bachelor’s degree in psychology at ECU in 2011. During her undergraduate tenure, she learned about factors that affect a child’s learning experience. Those include their social interaction with peers and level of support from family. Although she is not a licensed psychologist, Rodriguez said she should be able to utilize her background to better connect and educate special education students.

“I’m passionate about teaching and being aware of all the things that could affect the student’s learning,” said Rodriguez.

She said that being a professor will provide her with access to conduct research that she loves in the education community to make system improvements to benefit Hispanics. “I think being in that position really allows you to implement projects in the community and work also with the Hispanic population,” she said.

Rodriguez is working to collect data for the special education course, SPED 2123: Video Grand Rounds. The course allows undergraduate special education students at ECU to observe and discuss with their professor lessons for special education students at levels ranging from elementary to high school.

How has the College of Education affected your teaching ideology?
I met a lot of good teachers here in the College of Education and learned from their strategies. The way they can make the children interact, it’s really amazing. I still have to work on that – my projection and my energy – but my cultural background is a good factor that I can give with my perception and being aware of students’ needs.

What experiences inspire you the most to become a better teacher?
The way other teachers have influenced me. Their examples have made me desire to become more like them. Carroll Dashiell took one-on-one time with me for voice lessons. He would stop the lesson to focus on the needs to make sure the student can perform. Alana Zambone is a teacher who believed in me. I think that’s great when you have teachers who, even though you can’t see your future, they can believe for you. She did that for me.

Why did you choose ECU?
I completed my bachelor’s here and I saw the opportunity to further my education here in two years, which would allow me to continue to work and do other projects.

Why did you choose to focus on special education? 
My bachelor’s was in psychology and although I like teaching overall, I think special education gives me that challenge to help a little bit more complex student. Having the background and the knowledge of psychology and all these other factors – social factors too – helps me better understand the special education children.

What is the purpose of the College of Education Junior Advisory Board? 
The students advise the dean as representatives of the College of Education. We tell the dean and the board, the needs of the students in the College of Education. The improvements that we have been working on are basically the goals of the students and the things that we need, like new facilities. We advocate for the students.

Written by: Jamitress Bowden
Photography by: Cliff Hollis

"You will be amazed by your capabilities and how challenges become opportunities to success when you believe in yourself."

- Vasti Rodriguez