Special educator Shulze brings his expertise to education dept.


Max Van Wie

Rob Schulze

“His expertise around special education really stood out to us,” said Katheleen Brinegar, the chair of JSC’s education department, about Rob Schulze, its new associate professor of special education.

Last year, Brinegar chaired a committee of faculty, students and staff  to hire a new special education professor, after former special education professor Perry LaRoque resigned. The committee included Academic Support Services learning specialist Richard Simmons, Think College director Christopher Kennedy and Kristina Hill, a graduate student in special education.

The committee eventually narrowed the potential candidates to two.

“We brought the two candidates to campus,” said Brinegar. “They were both here for two days, and we felt that Rob in the end had expertise way beyond the other candidate. Rob also had leadership skills. He had been an administrator in K-12 schools, a special education administrator, so we knew he was good at decision-making and developing curriculum and all those other pieces that we were looking for. The students also liked him when we had him teach a class, which was important to us.”

Schulze has a masters degree in special education from Westfield State University and a Ph. D. in special education from University of Massachusetts Amherst, where he taught special education while earning his doctorate. While there, he received the Excelsior Fellowship.

He also served as a special education supervisor and assistant special education director for two years in Massachusetts, and a special education professor for five years.

Schulze said he found many aspects of JSC immediately appealing.

“I was very impressed with the area, and the students that I met and the other faculty here,” he said. “When Dean Regan called and said that they were going to make an offer for me to come here, all those experiences from my time here came flooding back. It was actually quite an easy decision.”

Schulze’s interest in special education began with a night job teaching at a school for disabled students. He hopes that he’s able to bring the depth of special education to everyone at JSC.

“It’s sort of a cliché, but it’s true, that all teachers are special education teachers now, that… there’s no more segregation, which a good thing,” Schulze said. “So I feel that all the students that come out of this program need to be prepared to handle that, and I would like to do that for them.”

So far Schulze said that students here have been very willing to engage, and are working with the ideas coming up in class.

“As long as a student is willing and eager to engage with ideas, it doesn’t matter how hard or strange the idea is, you’ll eventually get it,” Schulze said. “If you’re passive and sit back and don’t engage, that becomes trouble, but that’s been very good so far.  I’ve been encouraged by the eagerness of the students to work with the material.”

According to Brinegar, Schulze’s job this year will be to refine a new program that gives undergraduates a chance to gain a special education endorsement as well as a traditional teaching licensure. Toward that aim, Schulze is already deep in research.

“I am currently assessing the program for dual endorsement to search for opportunities for improvement,” he said in an email interview. “As with any good special educator, I believe that you have to make decisions based on data, so I am collecting data from current students in their practice, from supervising special education teachers, and from the literature on special education teacher education. My overarching goal is to make sure that students who are dually endorsed in both regular and special education are fully versed in both, with a powerful and complete special education program that prepares them to begin to work with this critical and vulnerable population immediately after graduation.”

Schulze said students who are just beginning the program should get excited.

“Special education is a dynamic and rewarding field,” he said, “where professionals accomplish amazing things with amazing students.  JSC students who are entering that part of their course of study should get ready for some experiences that will, in all probability, be life-changing.”

This year Schulze will be teaching Ecology of Human Development, one of the new general education classes; Foundations of Inclusion, a special education class; and a graduate class, Characteristics and Development of Diverse Learners.