Date of Defense



Teaching, Learning and Educational Studies

First Advisor

Dr. Shaila Rao

Second Advisor

Dr. Allison Baer

Third Advisor

Heidi Ellis


As any educator can attest, teaching comes with inevitable risks and challenges. Thankfully, most of the difficulties associated with the teaching profession have simple solutions. A stain stick to undo the damage of messy arts and crafts projects, a few minutes to straighten up the whirlwind of daily activities, a mental note to change lesson plans that were not executed with expected effectiveness, and an end-of-the-year party to celebrate the conclusion of the school year. While many good-byes come with the confidence that students will be secure in their futures, others linger with the uncertainty of what lies ahead. The reality that some will become vulnerable and defenseless against life's challenges is enough to dread the start of summer, because it means students must leave the safety of the classroom. Within the four walls of a classroom, there is hope. Regardless of where a student comes from - no matter what his of her socioeconomic status, no matter how disadvantaged because of his or her home life, no matter how much a disability affects his or her life - a supportive teacher can create an environment where everyone succeeds. Through research-based interventions, individualized modifications and accommodations, social opportunities, and the belief in all students' limitless potential, barriers to learning cease to exist. But what happens when students leave the safety, encouragement, and optimism found within their schools? What happens over the summer, when they do not have refuge from an abusive adult? What happens the following year, when another teacher neglects to believe in their possibilities or minimizes their educational supports? What happens when students enter secondary school, where they may be lost in the shuffle of a large student body? What happens after they age out of the special education system at twenty-six or twenty-one, when they are often at the mercy of their families? What happens to these students who are at risk of being forgotten?

Access Setting

Honors Thesis-Campus Only