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Carón A. Westland

Clinical Associate Professor

My story:

While an undergraduate at UCLA, I decided to minor in the Elementary Education program. I was majoring in psychology and I heard about this new minor; it was called "diversified liberal arts" - a very descriptive name, don't you think? So, I did a lot of self-advising in order to complete the minor. I didn't know anything about the student teaching process (other than friends who were completing their 5th year.) So, I worked at the Corrine Seeds University Elementary School - working my way up from crossing guard, to playground supervisor, to finally, the coveted position "teacher's aide!" I was also completing field work for children with learning disabilities at The Fernald School and tutoring adolescents who were in drug and alcohol rehabilitation programs. Needless to say, I was fascinated by the psychology and the education aspect of all that I was doing. I had no idea how key figures in the field (and who I had direct and indirect contact with) such as Madeline Hunter, John Goodlad, Linda Taylor, and Irv Maltzman would impact my life.

These experiences shaped my life. I had no specific plan other than to embrace all that I was learning and to live with purpose. I read Leo Buscaglia's work, "Living, Loving, and Learning" while I was a crossing guard - there was some down time and I tended to get to work early just so that I could do some extra reading. I remember how he talked about how important it was for kids to climb trees and to explore in an inquiry-based manner.

And so, my journey in the educational psychology field took some twists and turns. I trusted in the process that I would be where I needed to be when I needed to be there. I pursued my masters in educational psychology at San Francisco State University. I took some of those ideas and worked for awhile at UCLA as an epidemiologist and ethnographer. I always found myself volunteering in the counseling field (i.e., Los Angeles Suicide Prevention Center) and tutoring youth in a variety of subject areas. I was teaching school in a variety of different settings and found it incredibly rewarding. When I decided to obtain my Ph.D. at Cornell University in educational psychology, I had no idea where I would end up. I chose minors in program evaluation and planning and cross cultural theories. I learned so much! It sparked my mind in ways that I never imagined.

My goal was not to be a professor, but to be a counselor. And now I realize that I counsel and profess at the same time. All of these ideas and skills intersect. In fact, when I returned back to school to get a second bachelors at the University of Nebraska Omaha, I really knew that I wanted to be in teacher preparation. So, with my Ph.D in hand and lots of classroom experience at both the elementary and secondary level, I pursued a degree in secondary education with endorsements in social studies and special education. I picked the two areas that I had a very special "calling" - you can ask me about it and I'll tell you a few stories!

And so, I have utilized my educational experiences to teach in many different places and in different areas I've taught K-12 in public and private settings. I have used those experiences to enlighten and transform students in a variety of college and university setting - community colleges, technical colleges, small liberal arts colleges, and universities. I've taught for schools of psychology, education, and counseling.

My students at University of Colorado Denver:

Learning is a trusting process. If we trust those who teach us and open ourselves to the experience, amazing transformations can occur. I guide my students through the journey of learning utilizing critical thought and experiential practice.

Classes I teach at the University of Colorado Denver School of Education & Human Development:

  • Success for All: Adolescents/Children - SPED 5111/5112
  • Negotiating the Classroom Culture - IPTE 5120/5121
  • Collaboration with School Professionals - SPED 5300
  • The Uses of Technology in Special Education - SPED 5320
  • Advanced Assessment for Special Educators - SPED 5140
  • Advanced Child Growth & Development - EPSY 5100
  • Social Psychology of Learning - EPSY 5200
  • Site Seminars - SPED/IPTE 5910/5911/5912/5913

Teaching Interests:

    • Special education,
    • teacher education,
    • psychology,
    • counseling, & interdisciplinary courses.

Research Interests:

  • At-Risk Youth,
  • Affective Motivation & Learning,
  • Parental Involvement, Interdisciplinary Education,
  • Collaboration,
  • Cross-cultural Issues

My hobbies:

In my free time (and sometimes while I'm working), I travel and explore the world around me through music, art, photography, and stories. I want to live in the present and embrace as many different experiences and opportunities as possible. I love music - all genres. I started my CD collection before I even owned a CD player (I have parted with most of my cassette tapes and never owned 8-track tapes). If I had the musical talent, I probably would have been a singer/songwriter. I played the drums for sometime and sold my set in order to put down the down payment for graduate school at Cornell University. I think I have shifted my interest over time as a way to stay fresh in all that I do. So, instead of playing in a band while I was at Cornell, I studied hard and went to the weekly coffee house/radio folk broadcasts, "Bound for Glory". I heard and met some incredibly gifted singer/song writers and heard their stories. The one story that will forever impact my life is a story told by "The Story" - Grace in Gravity. There were two people involved in a car wreck in Africa, one was black and one was white (a dancer and a choreographer). The black passenger, had to travel some eight hours on a bumpy rode to a hospital. The white passenger traveled to the nearby hospital. The black passenger was paralyzed, his career forever changed. It makes me think about the injustices in the world and how a strange twist of fate can change our life forever. Another song, written by a former social worker, Catie Curtis, captured the essence of our American systems..." there's a hole in the bucket, and people fall out..." Clearly, my passions for music and social justice allow me to move my professional work in a forward direction.

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