PhD ’16, Special Education
Timothy Zgliczynski (PhD ‘16, Special Education) is revolutionizing his classroom and approach to teaching with the use of technology. Zgliczynski is a fourth-grade teacher at William Street School in the Lancaster Central School District and currently entering his 17th year of teaching. He is also an adjunct instructor at UB and Medaille College, where he has instructed a multitude of courses related to special education. “If you ask any educator, they will say they love the moment when a student demonstrates a new skill or strategy they did not know they had before they were taught,” Zgliczynski said. “I get to participate in these individuals’ lives on their road to greatness, and that has tremendous intrinsic value.”
Zgliczynski received a technology/flexible grant in 2016 from New York State for his fourth-grade classroom. The grant provided funds to add a second smartboard, which aided viewing angles for his students and allowed him to display multiple content at once. Zgliczynski added yoga ball chairs to his small group center so students who fidget could have a seat to sit in. The projectors were fitted with Miracast adapters so students could work from Windows computers or Android tablets at their seats, and have the world projected on smartboards. All of these purchases were made to help integrate Universal Design Learning (UDL) principles into his classroom.
UDL provides a way for all learning content to be equally accessible to students regardless of their ability. For example, students are no longer required to raise their hand if they want to answer a question because UDL implements new technological ways for students to simultaneously respond by using Web 2.0 tools such as Plickers, Nearpod and Socrative. Zgliczynski also ensures students receive content in different formats, such as text, audio and hands-on methods. UDL was founded on three principles: representation (how teachers deliver content), expression (how students respond) and engagement (how often students are active in the learning environment).
Zgliczynski believes all educators should deliver instruction using the UDL framework because students can miss information. “Some students are great writers, some are creative producers and some are interpersonal” Zgliczynski said. “If an instructor does not build those avenues into a course, then you are essentially catering to one kind of student and minimalizing other means for success.”
Nuclear medicine was Zgliczynski’s original interest, but a friend at UB introduced him to a local summer camp in Cheektowaga where he became a music director working with children. The summer camp job lead Zgliczynski to a full-year position where he worked at the Special Olympics with individuals with disabilities. “I knew I wanted to help people, but I did not know how,” Zgliczynski said. “I found myself coming home each day with a feeling of self-worth and accomplishment, which influenced my path in education.”
After 10 years of teaching in the classroom, Zgliczynski decided it was time to start giving back to his profession, so he went to UB to obtain his PhD in special education. He worked full time while earning his doctoral degree. He would teach during the day, go to school at night and teach college classes when he could. However, Zgliczynski always put his family first in the process. “I was always a father to my three kids and a husband before anything because titles, degrees and jobs should never come at cost of who you are,” Zgliczynski said. “Sometimes it becomes easy to lose focus of what is important when chasing your dreams, but I would advise anyone who chooses the same path to ensure they attend to what matters most to them first.”
The Graduate School of Education helped Zgliczynski develop his passion for research methodology, which allowed him to conduct empirical studies in his own classroom. He received the Mary Lou and S. David Farr Scholarship from UB in 2016 to conduct research in education and technology. This scholarship allowed him to focus on his research and complete his doctoral degree.
Zygliczynski has contributed to chapters in two books: High Leverage Practices in Special Education and Doing PDS: Stories and Strategies from Successful Clinically Rich Practice, and he intends to continue writing more publications, as he would like to develop his own educational consultant business in the future. “The PhD may be obtained, but I feel like I only have tapped the wealth of knowledge that is out there,” Zgliczynski said. “I could have never imagined all I have learned in the past five years and I am excited for my upcoming years of learning.”
Advice Zgliczynski recommends for students is to never stop asking questions because curiosity matters. “One must be learning for an eternity, so we can replace cynical doubt with focused research,” Zgliczynski said. “Never stop aspiring and inspiring; that is the power of education.”