With more than 40 years of experience in special education teaching and administration, Kathleen Ryan Rodenbach has much to share with future educators at St. Thomas Aquinas College.
“Society needs teachers who are able to prepare students for a changing world,” she says. “Teachers must not only be prepared to teach academic content but must be culturally responsive and able to address the social and emotional needs of students. They must be adept at using technology tools and understand diverse learning needs.”
Since 2013, Kathleen has been preparing graduate and undergraduate students to do just that as an adjunct professor of education and coordinator of the Master of Science in Teaching (MST) program at STAC. She says that she values her colleagues who are collaborative and committed to the field and to their students. “The School of Education has a dedicated dean, Dean Gajria, and a strong team of professors with a wide range of expertise. I continue to learn from them and I am inspired by them.”
Kathleen is also inspired by her students who she says are enthusiastic and motivated to learn and make a difference in the community. “Many are already working in local schools and serving as teaching assistants, coaches, tutors, camp counselors, and volunteers.”
Her first role in education was as a resource room/consultant teacher at Clarkstown South High School in West Nyack, New York— the school’s first special education teacher in its history. After 14 years of working directly with students, conducting academic and behavioral assessments and preparing individualized education programs (IEPs), Kathleen’s role expanded to a supervisory position when she was appointed special education department chairperson of the high school. In that capacity, she oversaw the review and implementation of IEPs, facilitated district-wide training, and managed the annual budget.
A permanent New York State-certified special education K-12 teacher and school administrator and supervisor, Kathleen earned her master’s in education in learning disabilities from Fordham University and a bachelor’s degree in special education from Mercy College. Later in her career, she returned to school to pursue a professional degree in educational administration and supervision at Fordham University.
Through her passion for education and collaboration with her colleagues in the district, Kathleen has made significant strides in improving education for special needs students and including them in general education classroom activities and lesson planning. Over the years, her contributions to the field have been recognized with many awards and honors. She is the past recipient of the Special Educator Award from the Rockland County Association for Learning Disabilities and former Nanuet & West Nyack Rotary Educator of the Year and New City Rotary Teacher of the Year. In 2007, the New York chapter of the Council for Exceptional Children, the largest international professional organization dedicated to the educational success of students with disabilities, gifts, and talents, also honored her with the Special Educator Achievement Award.
In her free time, Kathleen enjoys gardening, reading, hiking, and traveling. She’s also taking a French course to sharpen her language skills which she practices when she and her husband travel to their apartment in France. Kathleen loves family time spent with her three children, Daniel, Anne, and Jacques Rodenbach.