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Pictured is Arleen Wheat, Ed.D., assistant professor of special education at Point Park University. | Photo by Chris Rolinson

Arleen Wheat, Ed.D.
, was recently appointed assistant professor of special education at Point Park University. Prior to joining Point Park, Wheat was assistant superintendent of special education and pupil services for North Allegheny School District. Before that, she was North Allegheny's supervisor of special education. Wheat has expertise in a variety of fields including autism, special education, gifted education, health services, psychological services, student assistance programs, school counseling, social work, ESL, homeschooling and home education.

You have more than 30 years of experience in special education. What originally attracted you to the field?

I always wanted to be a teacher. Initially, I entered Indiana University of Pennsylvania as an elementary education major. As part of the program, we were required to do observations and field experience very similar to what is done at Point Park. I volunteered to work with a student who had significant physical and intellectual disabilities. From the first moment I worked with the student, I knew that special education was my calling. The very next day, I met with my advisor and changed my major to special education. I loved every moment of teaching in public education and I hope that my passion and love for the field is contagious to my students.

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Why did you decide to teach at Point Park University?

I decided to teach at Point Park because I believed that I could contribute to the University's professional learning community. I also believe that sharing my practical experiences in the field of education would bring authenticity and real-world application to the students' education. I love the diversity at Point Park along with the urban setting. I've lived in the Pittsburgh area all my life and love the city!

What types of hands-on projects do you include as part of your course work?

I give my students opportunities to be in classrooms through observations and field experiences. They create lesson and unit plans in some courses and have opportunities to interact with other students and professionals through discussions. I bring to life what they learn in books and describe the practical applications of the theories and research. I also show videos of teachers teaching students.

What direction do you see the special education field going in the next five years?

Special education teachers will be more accountable for the learning of students with disabilities through the Common Core State Standards Initiative. These standards prepare students for college and careers. Special education teachers will need to be very adept at aligning Individual Education Program Goals to the Common Core Standards. In addition, students with disabilities will have the same graduation requirements as their typical peers. Skills in adapting and modifying the general education curriculum so that students with disabilities meet these standards will be critically important. The field needs the best and brightest teachers to meet this challenge!


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