Program Award Winner: Rebecca Pfister

Each year, faculty in the College of Education and Human Development (CEHD) come together to select an outstanding student in their program to receive the honor of being named as their program award winner. Students selected for this award embody the very best of their program: they excel in their studies; they demonstrate leadership in classes and internships; and they have a genuine and tenacious passion for their discipline.

This year, faculty in Special Education have selected Rebecca Pfister as the Outstanding Student in Special Education (Students with Disabilities who Access the Adapted Curriculum). Congratulations, Rebecca!


Q & A with Outstanding Student in Special Education (Students with Disabilities who Access the Adapted Curriculum), Rebecca Pfister:

What academic accomplishment are most proud of?  

In 2014, I wrote and published my Master’s thesis on Teenager’s Media Consumption and Perception of Mental Illness. I interviewed teenagers and spent time researching mental health. This provided insight into the mental health and disabilities sector which furthered my interest in special education. Looking back, this allowed me to realize and accept my true calling as an educator and advocate for students with disabilities. As a teacher, I want students and others to learn acceptance and acknowledge that everyone matters regardless of their disability/diagnoses.  

What are your plans after graduation? 

I plan on continuing to teach special education and advocating for children and adolescents with disabilities and mental illnesses.  

What is your favorite memory in CEHD or your favorite part of being a CEHD student? 

I have enjoyed collaborating with future and current educators both in and outside the classroom. I am constantly learning and gaining perspective on the education system from others that has allowed me to grow both professional and personally.  

What advice do you have for fellow CEHD students (especially those that are not graduating yet)?  

Be grateful for your classmates, teachers, people supporting/ encouraging you along the way; more importantly, yourself. You are worthy and loved and you have the opportunity to share your knowledge with future leaders. Go to every single class, even if it’s boring, look at it as an opportunity to improve your focus. Take responsibility for your action (i.e. not turning in a paper), because one day you won’t be the student but the teacher. The sooner you accept responsibility the sooner you will stand tall as an educator and can hold your students to the same standards of excellence that I know you can.  

My advice to people currently teaching: 

  • It is easy to get caught up in negativity and drama that surrounds education. It is important to focus on the students and not let outside noise interfere in their education.  
  • Ask and seek out advice. You are surround by talented educators!  
  • If you are not laughing, you are not doing something right. Laughing is the best medicine (and, coffee). It is not an easy job, but if you truly love your job, it will not feel like a job. 
 Is there anything else you would like to share about yourself?  

I teach first through fifth grade in Prince William County. I teach students with autism and emotional disabilities in a self-contained classroom. My students range from nonverbal to fully functioning. I teach both the adapted (VAAP) and the general education curriculum. I also have taught a second-grade, third-grade and ninth-grade student with autism placed on homebound and taught SOL remediation after school. I have been able to expand my teaching capabilities and learn to work with a different population of students. In addition, I provide special education training for new and incoming teachers in Prince William County. I currently mentor two teachers and provide them guidance in the following areas: social skills, lesson planning and creating unit plans, data collection, organizing student material, classroom setup, and providing opportunities for observation inside my classroom. I also provide training for Teachers Administrating VAAP. I work on creating lessons, developing material and organizing/developing VAAP binders based on the student’s current academic level. 

I spent my previous career as a marketing and communications strategist for a large corporation before switching careers to a teacher of students with autism in the educational setting. I have my MA in Strategic Communication from American University and my BA in Occupational and Technical Studies (STEM) from Old Dominion University. In addition, I have several certificates in marketing, public relations and eCommerce. I now use my communication skills toward helping children.  

I absolutely love my job and every day is a new adventure. I never feel like I am working. I am excited to continue to learn and grow as a professional.