Rachel Donegan

Assistant Professor, Special and Early Education

Rachel Donegan

What year did you start working at NIU?
Fall 2020

Where is your hometown? and where do you live now?
Before moving to the area, I lived in Nashville, Tennessee, for the last 14 years. So, I consider Nashville my hometown. I currently live in Oswego, Illinois.

Where did you attend college and what degree(s) have you earned?
I received my bachelor's in psychology from Calvin College and my master's and Ph.D. in special education from Vanderbilt University.

In which department(s) do you teach?
Department of Special and Early Education

What do you like about working at NIU?
I love everyone's willingness to help. I've asked a lot of silly questions since starting and emailed complete strangers looking for assistance with a variety of things. I've always gotten a warm response and all the help I've needed.

What advice would you give to students currently attending NIU?
Keep working hard. Be persistent and receptive to feedback. Don't be in a rush to achieve your goals. Sometimes the long way is the right way.

Tell us about a research or engaged learning project you have led.
I recently completed a systematic review. For this project, I reviewed the results of reading intervention research for upper elementary struggling readers published over the last 20 years. We found significant effects of reading interventions on reading outcomes and also found promising effects for multicomponent reading interventions. We also found evidence of some diminishing intervention effects compared to an earlier review.

What do you hope students take away from your class?
I hope students learn how to teach reading and math to students with disabilities using explicit instruction. Explicit instruction is a powerful framework they can implement across subject areas and is effective for both students with and without disabilities. In addition, I hope students take away a passion and interest in teaching that helps them continue to grow as teachers as they continue on their path to being professional educators.

Who has influenced your professional path?
I come from a family of educators. My sister, mother, father and grandmother were all teachers, and my grandfather is a retired university professor. I think teaching is in my blood. My master's advisor strongly encouraged me to pursue my doctorate, which I think was the major force in getting me where I am today.

What did you want to be when you were growing up? Are you currently doing it? If not, what changed your path?
My path has changed many times from what I wanted to be growing up. I entered college pre-med and switched to a psychology major after my first year. I didn't become interested in a career in education until my senior year in college. After completing my bachelor's, I went on to earn my master's and became a special education teacher. When I was a new teacher, I had a mentor who encouraged me to keep developing my knowledge in teaching reading. I came a long way in my reading instruction those first few years in the classroom with her help! This led to me helping other teachers develop and refine their reading instruction through being a model classroom and planning and leading professional development. The rest is history!

Are you a member of or hold a position within a professional organization? If so, what organization? What is the purpose of that organization and how does being part of this organization benefit you in your role at NIU?
I'm a member of the Council for Learning Disabilities and serve on the research committee. This benefits me at NIU by connecting me to researchers across the United States who share my interests. It also allows me to review current research in teaching students with learning disabilities.

What do you do to relax or recharge?
I love to read and spend time with my family when I'm not working.

Is there anything else you'd like to share about your NIU Huskie story?
My Ph.D. advisor earned her bachelor's and master's from NIU. NIU was a part of my academic family tree before I even started here as a faculty member!

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