Elizabeth (Betsy) Donoghue
Current Teaching Position
I am a teacher in an unconventional way: I provide "Early Intervention" to infants and toddlers who have a developmental delay or disability, ages birth to 3. The children I work with can be premature infants, or children with cerebral palsy, autism, or speech delays. Many of our children go on to receive special education services at the county public schools, whether it is in the special education preschool classroom, or as physical therapy or speech therapy sessions.
My role is to meet with the family in their home and show them the ways to play with their child in order to help their child advance to the next level in cognitive or language skills, as well as in social-emotional and functional skills. Everyday play and activities provide the extra practice and encouragement for the child to improve his or her skills.
I work at the Rural Infant Services Program, which is a part of the Middle Peninsula / Northern Neck Community Services Board. We serve 10 counties, but my region only includes Essex, King & Queen, and King William counties. Our office is located in Urbanna, in Middlesex County, so you don't want to know how many miles I drive per day!
Bucknell University, Lewisburg, PA: BA in psychology, 1977
University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA: Masters in Social Work, 1979
Protective Services Caseworker, Erie, PA, 1979 - 1983
Outpatient Mental Health Counselor, Erie, PA 1983 - 1984
Outpatient Mental Health Counselor, Hanover, VA 1984 - 1986
Full-time Mom, VA: 1986 - 1997
Parent Educator & Literacy Coordinator for Head Start, Middle Peninsula, VA 1997 - 2006
Infant Educator & Service Coordinator, Rural Infant Services Program, VA: 2006 - present
I grew up in Massachusetts, and met my husband, John, in college in Pennsylvania. After he finished law school in Chicago, we moved to Erie, PA and then to the warmer climate of Virginia.
John and I have 3 young adult children: Josh, 22 (William & Mary '08), Benjamin, 19 (freshman at JMU), and Adam, 17 (junior in high school). We enjoy traveling together, although it's harder now that they all have their own jobs and schedules. But we have passed the love of travel on to them, as they have traveled on their own to Australia, California, or Florida. We also enjoy politics, and watching some sports on TV (Go Steelers! Go Red Sox!). Our dog, Riley, is an explosion of energy, and keeps us all happy.
I believe that education is the foundation for becoming a well-functioning adult in our society. Several basic skills, especially reading, are necessary for almost any profession or activity in our society. A liberal arts college education provides a broad perspective on history and society from which a person can understand how and where to make his/her mark upon the world.
People learn best by being active and involved in the process of learning. Children learn what the color yellow is by experiencing many toys and household objects that look the same and that others call "yellow." Children learn the concept of "more" by comparing piles of toys or stones or candy. Adults learn computer skills by using programs over and over (and over!) again. So, for education to be successful, the teacher must do more than tell the student the information. The teacher must involve the student in the process of learning.
When children have special needs, I believe it is important for the teacher to provide accommodations so that the child can work up to his/her ability. And I believe that the child should be with typically developing peers as much as possible so as to participate in learning and activities and form relationships. However, the child should be taught and tested at the level they are on, so that they can make stepwise progress in that area and not be overwhelmed with material they are not ready for.
I believe that my career path has led me to and culminated in my current work in Early Intervention. My work in child abuse and neglect early on in my career has provided an invaluable understanding of families at risk. My work in mental health and Head Start has also given me an ability to network more easily with various agencies when providing services to families with multiple needs.
My career goals are to continue perfecting my understanding of child development, developmental delays, and disabilites, and to continue to improve my ability to teach families how best to teach their children.
For the past several years, I have also taught workshops to child care professionals. I would like to continue sharing my knowledge with those who care for our society's children.