Angela Prince, a new assistant professor in the School of Education, prepares future educators to work with students who receive special education services and advocates for young adults with disabilities who are nearing life transitions after graduation. Photo by Ryan Riley.

Prince brings passion to teaching, advocacy for students with disabilities

Angela Prince is preparing future teachers for success with students in special education.

The new assistant professor in the Iowa State University School of Education focuses her research on behavioral discrepancies and special education legal and policy issues.

“I’m an advocate for transition-aged youth — young adults with disabilities who are reaching that high-school-to-work, high-school-to-college stage of their lives,” Prince said. “I ask the questions like, ‘After students leave high school, what outcomes are they experiencing? How well did we do with employment, with post-secondary education, including on-the-job training?’”

Teaching with passion and purpose

Prince earned her doctoral degree in special education from Clemson University, a land-grant institution in South Carolina. Prior to that, she spent seven years teaching in public schools. But her passion for the discipline began in high school, when she baby-sat for a 3-year-old boy with cognitive disabilities.

Now, Prince focuses primarily on high-incidence disabilities, or those exhibited among the greatest percentage of students in school settings. Her work includes studies of learning disabilities, emotional and behavioral disorders, and mild intellectual disabilities.

“Coming to Iowa State University is like going back to my original purpose,” Prince said. “I can be more research-oriented while also providing quality teacher preparation experiences.”

Marlene Strathe, the director of Iowa State’s School of Education, said Prince’s combination of expertise and energy will allow the teacher preparation program to continue its focus on preparing future educators to empower students with disabilities.

“Angela brings expertise in the transition of students with disabilities to post-school education, employment, and living,” Strathe said. “Her work also includes legal analysis of educational issues involving students with disabilities. She exhibits energy and enthusiasm in her work with undergraduate and graduate students in special education.”

Providing quality preparation

Prince said that Iowa State’s teacher preparation program, which provides students an option for a dual certification in both special education and general education, prepares future teachers well.

“Iowa State’s future teachers who pursue dual certification understand curriculum requirements for elementary educators, and they also gain the special education focus in research-based interventions for disabilities,” Prince said. “I’m really enthusiastic about that part.”

This fall, Prince is teaching SP ED 330, Introduction to Instruction for Students with Mild/Moderate Disabilities. The course explores educational services and programming for students with mild or moderate disabilities from a historical perspective. Students also discuss current trends and practices while examining practitioner journals and research articles.

“In the course, our future teachers read and summarize peer-reviewed journal articles, then demonstrate their knowledge to their peers,” Prince said. “I think their knowledge becomes more real to them, and they get a greater exposure to different interventions — maybe some that they’ve seen, and others that are brand-new. That’s the cool part. They see how the theories are applied, and then they get excited. You can see their enthusiasm for being a teacher grow.”

Education majors’ enthusiasm and empathy, said Prince, is built-in when they arrive on campus. It’s the job of the education program to take things from there.

“Our job in teacher preparation is providing research-based strategies,” Prince said. “Rather than just something that they heard worked, or something they read on the internet, our strategies are tried and true as demonstrated through journal articles or through textbooks that are written by well-founded authors.”

Forming partnerships

Prince said another goal of Iowa State’s teacher preparation program is helping future teachers understand how families and school districts can best work together to ensure student success.

“One of the hurdles we have to overcome are the stereotypes pre-service teachers sometimes have about families, or pre-conceived notions about what is the family’s responsibility and what is the school district’s responsibility,” Prince said. “It’s important that we help our future educators see the challenges as a team experience and less as an ‘us’ versus ‘them’ scenario.”

Prince said her time in public schools gave her multiple opportunities to assist families needing an advocate — which helps her instill that view in her students.

“When parents were jaded from the process, I saw it as a really great opportunity to hear the parents’ concerns and let them know I was on their side — I could form an alliance with them,” Prince said. “You do a lot of listening, and a lot of question asking.”