Meet Natalie Rugg, Ph.D., assistant professor of education.
What was your background prior to joining the La Roche faculty?
Prior to becoming a La Roche faculty member, I was a teacher at DePaul School for Hearing and Speech for 10 years. At DePaul I taught students who are deaf/hard-of-hearing to learn through listening and spoken language. During my 10 years there, I taught every grade from preschool through high school.
What inspired you to pursue a career in education?
Initially I was interested learning sign-language, so I began taking classes at CCAC when I was in high school. At that point I decided to merge my interest in sign language with becoming a teacher, so naturally, I studied deaf education.
It wasn’t until I was in college that I learned not all people with a hearing loss used sign language to communicate. This experience prompted me to student-teach at DePaul, which stole my heart. I loved working with the students to develop language and listening skills.
About 12 years ago, I was asked to teach a course in the Deaf Education Program at Indiana University of Pennsylvania (IUP). After that I knew I wanted to teach in higher education where I could incorporate teaching content knowledge and still be in the classroom. I decided to pursue my doctorate at Robert Morris University to attain this goal.
What are some of the classes you teach?
I primarily teach special education classes with the exception of Introduction to Education.
How would you describe your teaching style?
I like to have fun in the classroom and make the content relatable. I tell stories from my own experiences and try to model various teaching techniques to meet the needs of diverse students.
How do you incorporate real-world experiences into the classroom?
I show many videos in my classes to provide real-world experiences. I also utilize case studies so that students can apply their knowledge to different scenarios. Classes have taken trips to private schools, such as The Watson Institute. I also offer extra credit to students who attend the Dan Miller Disability Summit.
What makes La Roche’s education major unique?
La Roche is unique because undergraduate students can earn Pennsylvania certification in PreK-4 Education and PreK-8 Special Education in four years! We also offer a graduate program for students who do not have special education certification, or for those interested in earning an Autism Endorsement.
What advice do you have for students who want to pursue a career in education?
Get into the classroom and work with students. It’s easy to think we know what it takes to be a teacher because we’ve spent so much time in school, but being on the other side of the desk changes your perspective. Gain experience and determine which content areas/age levels fit you and your style.