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Dr. Marilyn Shank.Unhappy Joe wearing Christmas hat with four dogs.

If you’re really bored, check out my curriculum vita.

Mortarboard and books link to curriculum vita.

Education Terminology Note


In the last century, we referred to general education as regular education. We moved away from that term because it implied that kids with disabilities were “irregular.”  Currently, we also use “people first” language. Instead of talking about a learning disabled student, we refer to a student with a learning disability. A disability does not define a person. The person defines the disability.

             — Marilyn


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Christmas 2003

Jolly Old Saint Joe

and his mountaineer hound dogs

About Dr. Shank

My mother once told me she knew I would grow up to be a teacher. She said when I was in first grade, my best friend had a speech impediment. Mom said I would tell her, “Now, Bailey (not her real name), taaaalk reeeeeeeeeeal sloooooooow, the way I aaaammmmmmmm.” According to Mom, it seemed to help! I don’t remember being that much of a know-it-all as a kid, but I do remember wanting to be a teacher while I was still in elementary school (along with an inventor, an artist, a writer, a movie star, a doctor who cures cancer, and a fashion designer). Hmmm. I guess I was somewhat of a know-it-all!

I finally decided that teaching children was definitely my calling and graduated from Asbury College in Wilmore, KY, with a degree in Elementary Education. Because I was interested in counseling, I pursued a master’s degree in Personnel Services. I thought I was finished with my education at that point. However, some of my students puzzled me. They were obviously bright, sometimes with extraordinary talents, but they found reading, writing, and/or math perplexing. Only a few years after Samuel Kirk first coined the term “learning disabilities,” I decided to take a couple of graduate classes to try to find ways to teach these enchanting conundrums more effectively.

My initial course and textbook were titled Special Education in Transition. The first major law in special education (Education for All Handicapped Children Act, which was later reauthorized as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) had recently been passed. I remember general and special educators panicking about having students with disabilities in general schools, much less mainstreamed in general classrooms. We have a long way to go in educating students with disabilities, but we have also come a long way. Currently, we strive to do more than  merely physically place students with disabilities in general education to meet legal requirements. Instead, through Universal Design for Learning, we can assure that these students are vital members and active learners in inclusion settings.

But I digress. After taking a couple of special education classes, I was hooked. I enjoyed working with students who had learning and behavioral challenges and decided to pursue an additional master’s in Learning Disabilities.

Although I enjoyed teaching students with and without exceptionalities in elementary and secondary school, I eventually decided to teach college and share what I had learned with future teachers. Besides, I never did figure out when to stop going to school. I pursued the Ph.D. at the University of Kansas and graduated with majors in Learning Disabilities and Behavior Disorders and minors in Counseling Psychology and Families with Disabilities. For my dissertation, I developed a family problem solving intervention for single parent families of a child with a disability.

After graduating from KU, I taught for 11 years at the University of South Alabama in Mobile. My father had lived with me in Mobile for several years, and he and I both missed family and the West Virginia hills.  I taught at the University of Charleston in West Virginia for four years where I had the privilege of working with some outstanding future teachers who majored in Universal Design for Learning, a program I developed with Dr. Jo Blackwood, a general educator. They graduated with certification in general and special education. All eleven who had taken the two required special education Praxis exams before I left passed their two required Exceptional Children Praxis exams on their first try. They have extraordinary potential. As you can tell, I am extremely proud of them. I believe they will make a significant difference in the lives of children and teens in the future.

My father and I live in West Virginia with our two dogs. Along with my love for teaching, I enjoy desktop publishing as well as writing professionally and for children and teens. You could also classify me as a technophile.

Dr. Shank's This and That
Dad in his wheelchair with Gini on his lap. I'm hugging him.

Celebrating Gini’s obedience graduation