Teaching involves so much more than just pedagogy.
“It’s about looking at the whole person and their circumstances, background, and story so that you can reach them,” says learning specialist Lisa Epstein, a recent graduate of the UCSC Silicon Valley Extension Educational Therapy certificate program. “Only then can you use the pedagogical skills you have in your toolbox to help them succeed academically.”
Finding a Niche in Education
Before she found her niche working with students with learning differences, Epstein’s professional journey took several twists and pivots. She earned a Master’s in Social Work from the University of Texas at Austin and a law degree from UC Hastings College of Law. She was still in law school when she discovered her passion for education while teaching a “Street Law” course to middle schoolers.
Epstein went on to work in a legal aid agency, as a middle school English and history teacher, a reading intervention teacher, and as an adjunct faculty member in Dominican University of California’s teaching credential program.
Now she works as a learning specialist at an independent school in Marin for children in grades five through eight. She also sees students privately as an educational therapist through her business Epstein Ed.
The Educational Therapy certificate program, which she finished earlier this year, helped Epstein fill out her teaching toolbox.
Practicing in the Classroom
Educational Therapy Practicum, the final course in the Educational Therapy Certificate Program had the most impact on her as a teacher in the field. It draws on all of a student’s experience to work in an internship setting. Epstein worked with young elementary-age students teaching them reading and spelling skills through a very structured phonics-based reading program.
Epstein appreciated hearing from allied professionals who were often into the classroom to provide insight and advice on the field of ET.
Program Chair Sharmila Roy “made sure that our class sessions were useful,” Epstein said. “She provided practical guidance that was instrumental to my success. She also helped give me the confidence to work with a cohort of students with whom I’d had no prior experience.”
Practical Experience and Mentoring
What career advice does Epstein offer up to other educational therapy students?
“Get as much practical experience and mentoring as possible,” Epstein says. “I had Sharmila for a few classes and she was a strong teacher for each.”