Sharon Shaffer (Ph.D. ’04 Soc Fdns) has for a decade now been known to many of our off-Grounds students as the instructor of the Social Foundations of American Education course.
Despite teaching this conventional education course for our program, she has spent the past 26 years working her day job in a more unconventional education context.
Shaffer is considered a leading expert in the field of early learning in museums. From 1988 to 2012 she worked with the Smithsonian Institution and founded the Smithsonian Early Enrichment Center, a model lab school for young children.
Shaffer’s connection with the Smithsonian happened serendipitously when she and her family moved to the Washington, DC, area. She had been directing a lab school for young children in Pennsylvania, but all her training was in formal, in-school learning contexts. The Smithsonian grabbed her up anyway.
“They had a blank slate for me,” she says. “They told me, ‘We want you to create a national model for museum-based learning for young children. There is little in the field to guide your work, but our goal is to develop an educational approach that will serve as a model for others.’”
So Shaffer created a museum lab school, at first for preschoolers and kindergarteners, where they learned through an authentic approach—exploring everyday objects in their classrooms as well as learning from exhibitions, libraries, monuments, and gardens in the community. Later, she was able to infants and toddlers to the program.
Museums have not always considered young children among their targeted audience, Shaffer says, but interest in early learning has exploded over the past 15 years. “More and more, museums open their doors to and welcome young children.”
After the first decade of gaining expertise on the job at the Smithsonian, Shaffer wanted to consider a more academic perspective. She began looking for a doctoral program that would enable her to pursue a formal study of museum learning.
“U.Va. had the best fit to shape the program I wanted,” she says. She was able to keep working at the Smithsonian through her two semesters of classes on Grounds and also took some courses at the Northern Virginia Center.
“I loved the culture of learning,” she says of her experience at the Curry School. Her dissertation was a comparative case study examining programs for young children at the U.Va. Bayly Art Museum (now known as The Fralin) and the Philadelphia Museum of Art. “I focused on what both of these two very different programs had in common.”
“It’s the nexus between her professional and academic careers that makes her such an interesting and valuable faculty member.”
After the doctorate, she became a highly sought-after expert. She is asked to write and speak about early learning in museums at workshops and seminars for educators and museum professionals across the US and in a dozen or so countries abroad. In 2012 she was guest editor of a special issue of the Journal of Museum Education on the topic of early learning, and she is currently working on final revisions of a book called Engaging Young Children in Museums.
Since her retirement from the Smithsonian in 2012, she has devoted time to her own international consulting business on object-based learning –a topic she finds applicable to both informal and formal learning contexts. Shaffer worked in Kuwait over a three-month period earlier this year and was featured in an Arab Times article. Later this year, she will teach a museum course for the University College of London in Qatar.
And, of course, she continues to teach for the off-Grounds Social Foundations program, which she has done since finishing her Ph.D. work.
“It’s the nexus between her professional and academic careers that makes her such an interesting and valuable faculty member,” says Dan Driscoll, associate professor in the Social Foundations program.
Last fall she put the Social Foundations of American Education course online. Then, she developed a new face-to-face course, called Visual Education: The Intersection of Museums and Schools, which she delivered for the first time this past spring.
“The course was oversubscribed and was the most successful new course we’ve ever introduced in the off-Grounds Social Foundations program, based on student evaluations and feedback,” says Driscoll.
Stefanie Santangelo, a history teacher at The Potomac School in McLean who took the new course, agrees:
“Dr. Shaffer is an extraordinarily caring and attentive instructor whose expertise is second to none. But perhaps what sets her teaching apart from others’ was how immediately practicable and accessible the learning was,” she says. “Even while I was still taking Dr. Shaffer’s class, I felt empowered enough to try out the methods and strategies I was learning.”
Shaffer is passionate about learning herself, which is why she continues to teach. “It pushes me to keep abreast of current practice and thinking about learning,” she says. The visual education course is the perfect opportunity to bring together her life’s work and apply it across formal learning contexts.
“It’s at the heart of what I’ve done. I’m so excited to talk about it with practicing teachers.”
Jennifer Miller (M.Ed. ’13 Speech Path & Aud) is working as a speech-language pathologist at West Florida Rehabilitation Institute in Pensacola, Fla., covering inpatient rehab and acute care patients.
Nate Foot (M.Ed. ’13 Kines) was a finalist in the master’s oral presentation competition for his abstract, “The Relationship between Drop Landing Performance and Knee Extension Torque following ACL Reconstruction.” which was his thesis project done at U.Va. Nate presented his findings on the podium at NATA in Indianapolis.
Laura Leviski (M.Ed. ’11 Speech Path & Aud) recently moved back to Baltimore, Maryland and accepted a job as a speech-language pathologist at the Kennedy Krieger Institute.
Molly Mattare (M.Ed. ’13 Speech Path & Aud) recently completed her clinical fellowship and is a full-time speech-language pathologist at a pediatric private practice in Springfield, Va.
Lisa Power-deFur (B.A. ’75, M.Ed. ’76, Ph.D ’82 Speech Path & Aud) was elected to the position of Vice President of Standards and Ethics of Speech-Language Pathology of the American Speech-Language Hearing Association for the term, 2014-2016.
Chris Kuenze (Ph.D. ’13 Kines) was a finalist in the doctoral poster competition for his abstract, “Jogging Biomechanics After Exercise in Individuals with ACL Reconstructed Knees.” which was a study done while at U.Va. Chris presented his findings at NATA annual meeting last month in Indianapolis. He is currently a lecturer at the University of Miami.
Andrea Hedley-Williams (B.S. Ed. ’85 Speech Path & Aud) , a recent clinical doctorate in audiology (AuD) graduate, is busy at work both clinically and in the research laboratory. She is currently working on some exciting research in the field of cochlear implants and image-guided cochlear implant programming that will be presented at the International Cochlear Implant 2014 Conference in December.
Andrea Hedley-Williams's Curry Memory
Graduation in the Dell – the setting was beautiful – so green and vibrant.
Marie Ireland (M.Ed. ’97 Speech Path & Aud) was elected to represent Virginia on the American Speech-Language Hearing Association (ASHA) Speech-Language Pathology (SLP) Advisory Council and appointed to the ASHA Ad Hoc Committee on Strategic Planning for the Journals Program.
Robert Poch (Ph.D. ’90 Higher Ed)
Engaging Diversity in Undergraduate Classrooms: A Pedagogy for Developing Intercultural Competence
by Amy Lee, Robert Poch, Marta Shaw, and Rhiannon D. Williams (2012)
Robert Poch (Ph.D. ’90 Higher Ed) was awarded the 2014 Horace T. Morse Award for Outstanding Contributions to Undergraduate Education. The Morse Award is the University of Minnesota’s highest recognition of undergraduate teaching excellence. With the award, Dr. Poch was made a member of the University of Minnesota’s Academy of Distinguished Teachers.
Rebecca Jones (B.S.Ed. ’09 Speech Path & Aud) is currently completing training requirements to become PROMPT certified.
Rebecca Jones's Curry Memory
“Working with all of the knowledgeable and friendly Curry professors.”
Megan Greear (M.Ed. ’12 Speech Path & Aud) is employed as a speech-language pathologist at Envoy Skilled Nursing and Rehabilitation in Staunton, VA, and is getting married in November!
Anita Price (M.Ed ’71 Speech Path & Aud) retired in 2011 after working 35 years as a speech-language pathologist in various public school systems in the state of Virginia. “Since that time I have enjoyed traveling, spending time with my family and friends, volunteering with the local community hospice and taking care of my 17-month-old grandson.”
Whit Mayberry (M.Ed. ’14 Soc Fdns)
was one of four student-athletes from the Virginia baseball team earning spots on the 2014 All-ACC Academic Baseball Team. To be eligible for consideration, a student-athlete must have earned a 3.00 grade point average for the previous semester and maintained a 3.00 cumulative average during his academic career.
A right-handed pitcher, Mayberry went 6-1 with a 1.60 ERA out of the Cavaliers’ bullpen this season and posted a 5-0 record in ACC play. In 56 1/3 innings, he limited opponents to a .186 batting average. He worked in 87 games in his UVa career, which is sixth most in program history. Mayberry was one of 30 baseball nominees for 2014 Lowe’s Senior CLASS Award. He was selected by the Detroit Tigers in the 21st round of the 2014 MLB Draft.
Elaine Pinkerton Coleman (B. S. 64) The Goodbye Baby: A Diary about Adoption
by Elaine Pinkerton,
Kelly Duncan (B.S.Ed. ’06, M.Ed. ’08 Speech Path & Aud) recently accepted a new position to work as a speech-language pathologist in Forsyth County Schools in Georgia, after working at an elementary school in Fairfax County Public Schools in Virginia for the last six and a half years.
Jessica Rose (M.Ed. ’12 Speech Path & Aud) recently became a speech-language pathologist at Houston Methodist Hospital in Houston, Texas, primarily serving an acute inpatient rehabilitation population.
Jennifer Kolb (M.Ed. ’97 Speech Path & Aud) has worked at the Children’s Hospital Colorado for over 6 years as the cochlear implant program coordinator. “I am Board Certified in Audiology, with Specialty Certifications in Cochlear Implants and Pediatric Audiology. I’m enjoying the challenges of growing this program and our team. I’m very grateful for my education and clinical placements at U.Va., and have very happy memories of being there, with the exception of being up all night writing up my electrophysiology labs.”