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The distinctive character of Southern Illinois University Edwardsville is defined by the faculty's demonstrated capability to fulfill the values of the Teacher Scholar Philosophy; a philosophy guided by a serious and continuing commitment to teaching, scholarship and service in the belief that scholarship complements and enriches excellence in teaching and service.

Adapted from the Teacher Scholar Philosophy of SIUE, Teacher Scholar Philosophy Working Group, 6/2/08

Dr. Mary K. Weishaar

Associate Dean, School of Education and Professor, Department of Special Education and Communication Disorders

Research Focus:

Special education administration and legal issues, assessment, international issues in special education, use of case studies in the university classroom

Mary K. Weishaar

Recent Honors / Awards / Recognition:

• Received a Fulbright Scholar Award – to lecture in Kiev, Ukraine (fall 2002)

• Member of peer review committee to select Fulbright Senior Specialist Awardees (current)

• Invited to contribute a book chapter on special education law, edited by a colleague from Yale University (Elena L. Grigorenko).  The book, titled, Educating Individuals with Disabilities: IDEIA 2004 and Beyond, was published by Springer Publishers, in February, 2008.

• Manuscript coauthored with Dr. Victoria Scott, Talking Drawings as a University Classroom Assessment Technique. The manuscript is currently under review.

• Chairperson of SIUE Committee on Assessment (current)

Primary Courses Taught:

Graduate Legal Aspects of Special Education

Graduate Organization and Administration of Special Education

Undergraduate and graduate Assessment of Students with Disabilities

Primary Activities as Associate Dean:  Accreditation and Assessment activities


B.S. Education – Eastern Illinois University

M.S. Education – Eastern Illinois University

Ph.D. Education – St. Louis University

How does SIUE support your professional growth or activity as a Teacher-Scholar?
"I have been at SIUE for 13 years and am honored to be a member of the academic community today just as much today as I was 13 years ago.  SIUE facilitated my growth and development by allowing me to follow my personal interests in scholarly activity and teaching.  Simply put, SIUE is a good fit for me as a scholar and teacher because the following attributes are valued:

• I am student-centered and focused on helping students develop the essential skills, knowledge, and wisdom necessary to effectively work with children who have disabilities.  SIUE is also student-centered.

• I am committed to emphasizing learning in the context of the “real world” of schools by developing and using many case studies in my classes.  SIUE recognizes and values “real life” learning for students.

• I consistently receive high ratings from my undergraduate and graduate students and improve my teaching through professional development and peer feedback.  SIUE values excellence in teaching and provides many opportunities to improve.

• I am a teacher scholar and I integrate and align research with teaching.  For example, I co-authored or authored five texts that focus on real-life case studies and my motivation to development of these texts was the lack of these essential materials in existing professional publications.  SIUE values integration of scholarship and teaching.

• I am a teacher leader.  As special education program director and now, as associate dean of the School of Education, I am viewed as a person who can listen, bring people together, facilitate discussion, provide leadership or direction, and come to consensus on difficult issues.  Most recently, I provided leadership for our School of Education Accreditation visit.  SIUE values teachers as leaders."

What is a unique aspect of your professional life that enhances your service to the academic or greater community?
"I was honored to be awarded a Fulbright Senior Scholar Award to teach at a university in Kiev, Ukraine, during my sabbatical fall semester, 2002.  This profound experience provided me an opportunity to use, adapt, and refine my teaching skills in a different culture.  Although I conducted research and made several professional presentations, a key activity was to teach two university courses, one in the social work department and one in the law department.  My classes focused on policy and law of a protected class of citizens, the disabled.  Approximately 10%-20% of my students had a disability.  My classes (30-50 young adults ages 19-20 years old) were held in old, dilapidated buildings that were also used as public school buildings.  The conditions for learning were difficult, e.g., little/no heat, few electric lights (only windows), and limited support.  The majority of my students did not speak English and many had never talked with an American.  Therefore, I taught exclusively through an interpreter.  The only technology in my classroom was an old chalkboard (I had to bring my own chalk).  Teaching these classes made me focus on the “big ideas”, essential concepts, and vocabulary.  To effectively teach, I provided my interpreter with a vocabulary list and definitions.  I then used semantic maps and case studies to enhance understanding and promote discussion.  Faculty members from the department or other departments would frequently sit in on my classes to observe how I taught or to listen to the content.  All of my visitors talked to me about how they liked the manner in which I taught.  One law professor, Boris, attended almost every one of my law classes.  Later in the semester, he made a professional presentation at a seminar where I was in attendance.  In the seminar, he described his observations of my teaching and told the participants about the effective techniques that I utilized.  He was, for example, very appreciative of my asking students for their opinions on certain legal issues and checking for student understanding of concepts.  Although I was surprised to have my teaching critiqued in public (without my prior knowledge), I felt that this critique showed high regard and respect for my teaching.  This experience as a Fulbright Scholar renewed my interest in international education.  I view all educational issues through this “international” lens."

How has one mentor or event shaped your career decision to become a university professor?
"Many mentors and outstanding colleagues contributed to my career choice and success.  However, two mentors, Dr. Tom Shea (special education professor-emeritus) and Dr. Robert Wagner (special education professor emeritus), come to mind.  After working as a public school special education teacher and administrator for 18 years, I worked with Dr. Shea, who was then chairperson of the Department of Special Education, as a consultant to my school district.  I told Dr. Shea that I might be interested in teaching at SIUE and a month later, Dr. Shea called me to offer a one-year contract as an instructor.  After that year, I was unanimously approved by the faculty to move to a tenure track position as assistant professor.  I credit Dr. Shea with providing me with the opportunity to teach at SIUE.  Dr. Wagner became a trusted and valued colleague after I came to SIUE.  He encouraged me and helped me focus my research agenda so that I was able to publish scholarly work.  I credit Dr. Wagner as a valued mentor who encouraged me in scholarship and believed in my work."
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