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Strengths-Focused Education for Neurodiverse Students: A Conversation Between Rebecca Matte and Mark DiPietro 

Neurodiversisty Podcast Blog Header Strengths Focused Education fo rNeurodiverse Students a Conversation Between Rebecca Matte and Mark Dipietro


It’s Neurodiversity Celebration Week and joining us today to keep the conversation around neurodiversity in education going is Rebecca Matte, Associate Professor of Education at Landmark College, and Mark DiPietro, Vice President for Marketing and Communications at Landmark College.

In her time working with neurodiverse students, Rebecca found that students were often quick to list things they struggled with but couldn’t list areas in which they excelled. This led Rebecca to adopt a strengths-based perspective, one that takes a holistic look at a student and reframes what is often called a “deficit mindset.”

In their conversation, Rebecca and Mark talk about the importance of moving away from deficit thinking, and how you can incorporate strengths-based perspectives into your classroom.


Below is a transcript of this episode.

Mark: So we're here today, we're very excited to be part of the Heinemann Blog Podcast, celebrating Neurodiversity Month. I am Mark DiPietro. I am the Vice President for Marketing and Communications at Landmark College in Putney, Vermont. And I've been in this role for about 10 years. And I'm very happy to be talking with my colleague today, Rebecca Whitaker Matte.

Rebecca: Yes. Rebecca Whitaker Matte. I've been at Landmark for about 20 ... Well, I started about 29 years ago, which I think puts me at some time at Landmark. I was away for about three years, but I'm an Associate Professor of Education here.
I've been teaching in the classroom for the 29 years, and I specialize really in student transitions. I teach first semester students how to transition into college. And I specialize in the transition into career readiness, and getting ready for the workplace. And that really has become a big focus for me, are those transitions, which can be really fraught.

Mark: So I have to tell a story of how I first met Rebecca. My office was across from a classroom where she was teaching a summer ... I think in the summer program. And every day I'd hear this vibrant, dynamic, somewhat loud teacher, and I would always be curious, so I'd just kind of stroll past.

And one day I strolled past, and there she is sitting on a yoga ball. And there's her class, and they're all very engaged and dynamic with her. And I thought, "My college classes were never like this. So this is a special thing I'm getting to witness here." And over the years, I've gotten to know Rebecca quite well, and I harass her sometimes in my role as Marketing VP, because she's such a great spokesperson for all topics regarding neurodiversity.

And we want to talk a little bit today about strengths-based learning, and how that could aid many classroom teachers. And the whole philosophy behind it, and how that has informed some of Rebecca's teaching, and my own role as a supervisor of students who have learning differences. So let's start with the basic question Rebecca, can you tell us a little bit about what is strengths-based learning?

Rebecca: It has a definition, it's an approach that's out there, but I have to say, I didn't come to it in that formal way. I came to it because my students who were coming to my classroom as first semester students at Landmark, some of them coming straight from high school, some of them coming from other institutions, struggled to tell me about their strengths.

We pride ourself on self-awareness and self-advocacy, and those are the core piece of what I do in my first semester course. And just over and over again, I found that I would say, "So what are your strengths?" And students would say, "I don't know."

I struggled with that,, because obviously they had strengths coming in. And so I started looking into it a little bit. Mostly I just started to draw it out of them.

But as I started to look into it, I found, oh, this is a thing. Over the last 10 years or so especially, this is a thing that other people have picked up. And about 15 years ago, I started using the Clifton StrengthsFinder, which is something I'll reference again and again.
There's a lot of other tools out there, but I started using the Clifton StrengthsFinder, really because I wanted students to identify the language of their strengths. Students couldn't say they were good at sports, or good at math, or whatever, their soft skills, "I'm good at relationship building. I'm good at critical thinking or summarizing." These are other things that students didn't see as strengths, that were playing out every day. So identifying language was really, really a big deal.

I think the big part of what strengths-based approaches are, is that everybody has strengths. It's just that, as you're growing up, and you're neurodivergent, people don't always focus on them, and so they get lost in the mix. And I think everybody has strengths that rise to the top, but students who are neurodivergent always are working on their weaknesses, and so they don't know.

And I think that those challenges can keep others from really seeing what their strengths are. If I'm a teacher and engaged on helping someone with their challenges, I might not see the natural strengths they have, and therefore the student doesn't see the natural strengths that they have.

Mark: And I'm thinking about my own experience as a younger person, who does not have a learning difference. I would be hard-pressed, at that point in my life, to even tell you what a strength was, because I think so much focus is on what you need to work on. How did you find working with a population of students who do learn differently? I would imagine that's even more acute in that population.

Rebecca: Oh, for sure. I mean, you sort of reference your own experience, and I talk all the time ... So you walked by my classroom, and it was loud, and it was dynamic, and I was sitting on tables, and yoga balls, and I talk a lot, but that didn't play well in Catholic school, Mark. But, I can say that all of those things that were challenges for me when I was younger, are really strengths, are things that I was able to turn around and develop into something that really helped me connect with other people. And I want other students to find that. I think I lost track of your question, but could you ask it again?

Mark: I love that story about you. Because, yes, those things like, when you think about the notes that come home, "Socializes too much ..." Which, I may or may not have a child that gets those notes, and he is a child who will probably go into sales, because that is a very big strength. But I'm thinking about, for a population of students who may be neurodivergent, that the focus on weaknesses seems even more acute than maybe on a neurotypical population.

Rebecca: Oh, yeah. That's absolutely true. The students can come in ... When they enter, many of them can list off all of their deficits. I mean, it's very deficit focused. And they can come in, and then they can say, "I have a poor working memory. I'm this, or I'm that." But then when you ask them about their strengths, they can't ...

And the other challenge is then, if they don't know their strengths, they don't know how to harness those strengths, to manage or mitigate those things that are difficult. Lots of students might have difficulty focusing, but if they can create a study group, they can create compatible work partnerships, which is my big word I made up in my class ... They're not study buddies, right?

Because we all have compatible work partners, in the work world, and in life, and beyond. We find the people that we partner best with, who we can tap into, who can make the best use of our strengths, and I am thereby using their strengths. And so that's what I want to create, or help my students see for themselves, in the classroom.

Mark: So let's think about, in the typical, say, public school classroom, or maybe even private school classroom, how are they currently set up in a way that may or may not encourage teachers to use this sort of approach that focuses on strengths?

Rebecca: So this is where it gets pretty tricky. I am from a family of educators, public school educators and administrators. I know full well that educators are always looking for their student's strengths.

The challenges are the sheer number of stakeholders that are involved in the education of a child. These teachers are bound by classroom size, and curriculum, and competencies that they have to meet, and standardized tests that need to be given, and parent demands, and lots of special ed paperwork. And all of those things make it really difficult to find the time to create the environments that might tap into a student's strengths, or that will give you the opportunity to observe them. Or if you can observe them, you can see a student's strength. You may not have time to really sit down and work with a student to see it for themselves. It's time. It's time that teachers don't have.

The IEP process is designed to identify deficits. Compulsory education is designed to teach students certain competencies, and that's supposed to be the focus. And that's not why people go into education. They go in to change lives, and to inspire students, and to teach students to be their best selves.

But if they're bound to identify these challenges, and keep working on these IEP goals, which are listed, and ... I don't know if you've ever seen an IEP, but it's pretty ... it's a lot of pages, with a lot of words, and none of them say, "This student's really great at this." And then that's kind of what drives the machine.

And then there's bigger pictures. Even if you can get educators to try to get the administration to understand, there's time, and there's money, and there's a board that has fiscal responsibilities to the public, and there's administrators who have to manage a pool of money that's federal money. I mean, there's just so many constraints on the system that can make it really difficult for the educator in the classroom to play the games and take the time and create the environments to let the strength shine.

Mark: Given all those challenges, what are some pieces of advice you might give to a teacher who's struggling, who maybe doesn't have that support, say, administratively or within the school?

Rebecca: I think belief. I mean, again, every educator goes in. Don't give on that belief that you can find those strengths. It's funny, of course, I have a whole bunch of tools at Landmark that I use with my classes to do this. But this morning or yesterday, weirdly, right on my LinkedIn page, this article popped up by Byron McClure and Kelsie Reed from their book, excerpted from their book, Hacking the Deficit. I mean, just popped up very coincidental, but it talked a little bit about the spot process, which I encourage people to look it up, public educators, because it is really what you would do and it's what I would do.
It's just a cool little acronym to describe what I do. SPOT stands for strength, observation, progress over perfection, opportunity to shine, teach, try and tap into strengths, and when you break that out, all of these are pretty intuitive. You proactively look for strengths, that's strength, observation, and so you might have an activity where you start to proactively look or target a student every day. What are their strengths in group settings, in lunch, at recess, in the classroom, when they're passing in the hallway? Are they demonstrating kindness?

Are they creating a harmonious relationship among a group? Are they helping someone or are they quietly working on their own problem solving tenaciously? Like what is it that you can purposefully target and observe strengths in individual students? Progress over perfection, this is really what I focus on in my classroom. I do use some tools, which I'll talk about in a minute, to observe strength and identify strengths. I do only have my students for 15 weeks, but progress over perfection is helping us to identify strengths and know that practicing your strength is critical.

I don't know, a couple years ago, Malcolm Gladwell wrote the book with the famous 10,000 hours, right? You are not elite at anything until you practice it, even if you're born with a natural aptitude. So someone's gregarious nature might be natural, but you have to hone that communication ability. You have to practice it. You have to target it. You might be good at problem solving or strategic thinking, but you have to put yourself into those environments. So teaching a student that even though they might have a natural aptitude for something, you still have to practice it.

If you're a natural artist, you still need to practice your art or your music or whatever. It doesn't just happen overnight. The O, opportunity to shine means that once you identify a student's strength, try to create those opportunities to shine. I often think about ... I use the climbing wall on our campus quite a bit every semester. It's one of those weird activities that I came up with to study brain function. It's been used for lots of different reasons over the years, but the bottom line is I get my students to the rock wall and I get to see them in a different light, and I get to observe strength and I get to give them the opportunity to shine.

There are some students who are incredibly reticent in class, but they are certified climbers. And so the next thing I know, they are helping harness up their peers or they're belaying or suddenly they've discovered the rock wall and they'll go more often. They'll discover that this is something they want to learn how to do. So I both get to see their strengths in those environments and give them an opportunity to shine, which completely changes the classroom dynamic when you return, and that is amazing to watch every semester. It changes the dynamic.

Which brings us into teaching the students to, what is it? It's the last one, I think. Again, this is new to me, teach, try and tap into strengths, at least in the fancy wordage. So teach students to explicitly name their strengths. Okay. That's my bread and butter right there. I sort of every day try to get students to name their strengths, explain it, and I think Clifton's Strengths Finder, which I use, calls it ideas for action. I've had students track those ideas for action and now do it. Go join the radio station. Go join the TV station. Go to the ceramic studio.

Join one of the SGA or the government organization on campus. Find your strength and tap into it. I also help them use those strengths, as I mentioned earlier, to overcome the things that are a challenge. Because that can be a downside of strengths based is that sometimes students just come in and I say, I do this well. I don't need to do this other thing. Yeah, well, you do need to learn some math, so let's tap into your strengths to help you find the environments that will help you best learn mathematics and then, yeah, find those compatible work partners. That's really that T.

Mark: That's an interesting counterpoint that you just raised that can a student sometimes focus too much on their area of strength and think that, well, I don't really need to be better at this other thing because I'm good at this one thing.

Rebecca: Yes. So I do give the message to my students quite a bit that I teach to college and I say, compulsory education is over. You don't have to be here. However, there is a curriculum, there's some gen ed requirements, and there's a reason for them. And so we walk through that and some students will say, yes, but here's my strength and I shouldn't have to do that. I'm like, well, it may be true that someday you're going to get a job that will really, really help you tap into your strength, but you will always need to do a little bit of writing, do a little bit of math, do a little bit of these other things that are unpleasant.
And the ratio in your job may be more strength to challenge, but you will always have to find a way to do them. So yes, there can be that downside.

Mark: There's a really fascinating book, Range by, I believe it's David Epstein. Forgive me if I got the name wrong. But it gets at some of what you just said that the generalist who becomes good at many things then becomes better at the thing that they're really good at, which I find really fascinating that you can build up areas of weakness and then that actually strengthens your areas of strength at the same time.

Rebecca: Oh, that's a great way to think about it. Well, I also think too of how many people I know who did, I mean, this isn't college level stuff, but mid-career, midlife career changes. It's because they were working on this one skill, but they just kept gravitating toward this other strength that just kept popping up and they're thinking, I want to do more of that, and so they shift. But it doesn't mean that their first career doesn't absolutely inform what they do later on.

Mark: Let's go back a little bit to the tools you talked about. What are some of the tools available for, say, educators who are really interested in this approach?

Rebecca: Yeah. So I think I came to the strengths-based, I suppose, with a capital S, strength-based approach through the Clifton Strengths finder, again, as a way to give my students language. I liked that tool because it was discreet at the time. It had a book that came with it, and so I could get the students to buy the book. It's very effective when you have executive functioning challenges. I'm like, just go get the book and then you can type in the website. And then if you can navigate the website, fantastic.

But if you just want to stick with the information in the book, I mean, just really that particular tool has served me very well for the last 15 years. I have lots of activities that I use both in my perspectives and learning class, which is the transition to college class, and then another class I have, which is a career readiness class. I bring that tool forward and I have students compare their strengths to job descriptions and sort of do an analysis of what skills and competencies are required in jobs and how they suit their strengths.

So that tool, the Clifton Strengths Finder has been really helpful for all these years. Very recently, in the last couple of years, I have been involved in the use of the Birkman Method, which is an incredibly robust tool. It's a little pricier, to be fair, but I've had great fun with that really helping students.

This tool takes you through self-perception, social perception, motivations and interests. And I think this particular... Oh, and needs and stressors, that's the other. This is where the Bergman tends to differ is that it really helps you dig into some stressors and stress behaviors. But what I really have found about that particular tool is that this is the tool that has motivated students to persist in areas of difficulty because they were able to recognize their stress behaviors or their stressors. For whatever reason, they knew what they were good at and they could persist. They just were a little bit more informed in their ability to persist in the thing that was hard because they knew it was limited or a smaller part of their internship or whatever they were comparing it to. So I've had a lot of great success with that particular tool.

Actually, a small cult following on campus actually. There's other tools, the VIA, which I know less well, I don't know. Martin Sealiman is really one of the drivers of the positive psychology movement. He has a website out of UPenn that has a bank of assessments. But the VIA can be found on the UPenn Authentic Happiness website, or you can just type in VIA and find some tools. The reason I bring that up is because I know that can have a lot of colleagues, or outside of the college, who work with younger children, and the VIA actually can be used with younger children as well, middle schoolers, high schoolers. Whereas I think the StrengthsFinder and the Berkman would be high school and older. So younger children can do that. And then I think they're all kind of Myers Briggsy really in their own way. They're all personality type inventories, but they tap into those parts of our personality that are strengths, and I don't think children see personality traits as strengths.

Mark: That's a great point. I have a question if you don't know the answer to, it's okay. But I wonder, do schools or school districts ever invest in tools like this? If teachers need that sort of support to build up strengths-based teaching, is that something-

Rebecca: I have no idea.

Mark: Yeah. Okay.

Rebecca: I have no idea. Though I do know of some independent schools who have incorporated StrengthsFinder, the Clifton specifically, into their program, but I can't answer that at all.

Mark: I'd like to hear, I know over the years, you and I have talked a lot about our personal experiences with students that we've either taught or supervised or whatever, and you've told me some really inspiring stories about these exact topics. Students who think they have no strengths and then find they do, and you help them find they do, and you help them figure out how to build those strengths up. So could you tell us a couple of those examples?

Rebecca: Yeah. Oh gosh, there's so many. When I think about them, I think about a fairly recent one actually. This one was interesting. I had a student who tended to be very negative and very self-critical. He was very quiet in class, and he would always say he couldn't pay attention. He definitely had that default of I don't know, and that's a dead giveaway that I can't think about the question. I'm not going to answer it. If I just say this, maybe you'll go away. And anyway, we worked together and he was really critical. But it was really interesting that if students were getting into a discussion in class that was even remotely contentious, he would just pipe up and succinctly summarize everybody's argument and bring it right to center. And darn near solve the argument. I mean, everybody sort of was just stunned.

And he was super clear about it. And what was really funny then is that we did the strengths finder and he was struggling. So when I give the strengths finder, usually it has all of this language and this fancy language. And then the real task for students is say, give me an example of how this plays out for you. This is a self-inventory. You answered these questions and you endorsed these things as possibly being about you. So tell me where you see this playing out. And he just couldn't. And then we had a moment where he had filled out the form on blind spots. So I said, so what are some of the blind spots? And in Clifton Strengths finder, blind spots is really the shadow side of your strength. A little bit like my capacity to chat. That's a blind spot.

Mark: Which is serving you very well today.

Rebecca: Which is, right, exactly. It can play out well in other environments. So anyway, he had just written all these things about his blind spots, and as I looked at them, I realized that those were just the shadow side of how you might frame these other strengths, which I think in this case were the funky strength, the funky Clifton names, which was restorative context and maybe harmony. And if you took those three strengths together and mushed them up, he just was this reflective thinker who wanted harmony in a classroom. He struggled with the conflict. His brain would wake up and he could succinctly summarize everybody's argument and critically think through to find the common ground. It was just...

So unfortunately, he was drawn toward the negative side, but when we just reframed it, he just sort of looked at me like, oh, and it must have worked because he kept coming back to office hours.

Mark: Yeah, I was going to ask, was he able to recognize then that was a strength and utilize it in certain situations?

Rebecca: Sadly, again, I don't get to see my students long enough, but I have to say he did keep coming back. It changed the dynamic in classroom. It changed the work output. I think it's slow but steady. I think going back to when we're talking about public school educators, it's time. It is slow. It takes time. Progress takes practice. I mean, I think that was that spot thing that it takes time and you have to just remind them, which is why, in fact, I brought the Clifton Strengths finder back into that 2000 level class because the generalization of classroom knowledge is an transfer.

We call them transfer. The students always don't transfer what they learn in one classroom into another classroom. And that's a big part of what we try to focus on here. We try to use common language and make sure that students bring it with them from their first semester classes into their second semester classes. And then I have career connections all schooled in this, so that when they go to their career counselors, the career counselor will say, well, did you take the Strengths Finder? And what did that say? And how does that match these job descriptions? So we helped them transfer it. So I'm fairly certain it'll work out for that gentleman.

Mark: Career Connections being Landmark's Office of Career and Internship Placement and Training.

Rebecca: Yeah. I'm all over them. Yeah, I'm all over everything.

Mark: And we'll come back to that because I'm glad you mentioned career outcomes obviously are an important facet of your education. You want to see what happens at the next step in the transition. But first, I wanted to go back to something you said earlier about IEPs and how does it play out for a student on an IEP when the focus so often has been on, as you said, lots of papers, lots of words saying, these are the things you are not good at, rather than these are the things you are good at. What are some ways that a teacher of a student on an IEP may help them toward a strengths-based approach that moves them a bit away from the... I don't want to say negativity, but away from the weakness focused of their IEP?

Rebecca: So one of the things I think about a lot is I've worked with a lot of advisors here at the college over the years. I've been an advisor myself. I think I might not have mentioned that. I've done many jobs here. I worked in student affairs. I was in advising. I've taught in multiple departments. So 29 years, you can cover a lot of ground. But I think that, again, helping the students internalize that language. When I was an advisor, I would have students come in and tell me how they've used their strengths. What are their strengths? We're trying to get them to buy into this language and make it their own right? Don't just use the Strengths Finder language. Carve through the description, and then paraphrase it enough so you really wrap it into your own language. That's when you own it. And so if you as an advisor or someone who is working with a student who has an IEP doesn't mean every now and then you can't identify their strength and ask them how they used it today. "How did you use your strength today? How did you use your restorative strength," or whatever assessment or strength you've identified with them through strength observation. Have them write it down, make sure they have it at the top of their notebook. I mean, I have my students, they write it on the cover of their book and I ask them about it when they come in. I don't ask them about their poor working memory or their measurably slow processing speed. I mean, actually I do, but I really also ask them about their strength and what they did with it today.

Mark: You also referenced a little bit about how do you nurture that transition process so that a student can move from one setting to the next with that same mindset that they should be focused on their strengths and how to use them productively?

Rebecca: Well, with my classes, gosh, any class of mine you're in, you're usually creating a portfolio. And that portfolio is designed to help you highlight, and share and celebrate. And it's time on task. That's time with it, right? Like, "Here's who I am, here's what I do well, here's the environment. Here's a picture of me doing this thing that I do really well." And I mean, I also teach neuroplasticity, right? So the more ways you can wire this strength, they can visualize themselves doing it. They can visualize themselves talking about doing it. They can demonstrate it to someone else. They can talk about how they help someone climb in the class or how they knew... We went on a hike to find water spots on campus. They were able to identify all the bugs. Or whatever it is, or navigate because they have an exceptional sense of direction. Whatever it is, we get them to tell the story, and that's the key; tell your story and then you can take it with you. It becomes more of your story, good and bad.

Mark: Rebecca, that's a great point about telling your story because it brings to mind, the idea of self-advocacy and the importance of a student or an adult or anyone being able to explain what they need out of a given situation and knowing where your strengths are, where your needs are very important, not only in school, but in the workplace. And in my personal situation, supervising interns with learning differences, I very often see students coming to me and saying, "I need you to communicate with me in a very specific way because my executive function challenges, for example, mean that I'm not going to be able to take verbal directions from you as well, maybe as someone else will." That's extremely helpful as a supervisor in that situation, because then I'm not wondering, have I communicated the right way? Have I done something wrong that means the deadline wasn't met? And I see that propagated in Landmark classes. That is a hallmark, I think of the education here is that self-advocacy is very important. So maybe you could talk about a little bit of how that fits into this piece about finding your strengths?

Rebecca: I think knowing your strengths is a big piece of that. Actually, I have a great story about an intern. It's not mine, I can't own it, but I got a little emotional when I heard the story just because it's exactly what we teach. And the situation is this; we had a student who was an intern, and he was finishing the semester, and I think he was short a few hours on his internship, and he was working with his supervisor, and his supervisor was like, "You know what? You have worked incredibly hard. I think these two hours, how about we call your write up for the internship, those two hours?" And the student really, really, really wanted to complete the two hours. And she said, "All right, so here's this task. It's not great, but it is part of the job and would be something if you had five hours that I would give you. So here's this task." And the student looked at her and he said, "Well, I could do this, but do you need any presentations made or PowerPoints or anything? I'm really good at making presentations." And by God, he was. He made this fantastic PowerPoint. She had a task, she was creating something, and she gave him all the information he needed, and he put together this fantastic presentation that was used in a pretty big audience, and it was fabulous.

And I think that self-advocacy, not just, "Here's what I don't do well," but, "Here's what I can do instead," is the really important takeaway here. "I see the big picture of what this job is, and here's the things that are going to be difficult for me, and here's the things I'm going to do really well. And if you want to make the best use of this human resource, that's how to do it." And I love that story.

Mark: That's a really wonderful example of what I've seen as well in the field of marketing, of course, there's many aspects to marketing. And I've had students who are interested in internship come to me and say, "I can't really write that well, but I'm a really good visual storyteller" and I've created internships based on that. You can learn how to do video software if you know how to tell the story. You can learn animation if you know how to tell the story. So we've really been able to nurture those things. And I love that because I came up in journalism as a journalist with one of my first editors was a big sports guy, and he would always make the analogy that, you play your players to their strengths. You find what works for them, and then you put them in based on that. And I love seeing young people in the workplace finding those things that really work for them, and knowing that they've come up in the classroom and maybe discovered those things.

Rebecca: And the other value of that, which I super appreciate, is that when you can say that upfront, you can figure out where you fit in a work group, right? You can't have everybody doing the video storytelling. Somebody has to do the writing. And if the job is about writing, then you need to think carefully about that or just buck up and do the writing. And both are true. So I think, learning where you work in how you fit into a work group is equally as important and then harnessing the others.

Mark: This has been a great conversation. Do you have any thoughts you'd like to wrap up with?

Rebecca: I think, again, I came to this strengths-based piece intuitively, like most educators. I mean, when you're really in the field of education, you don't go in because you can check a lot of boxes and meet a lot of standardized goals. You go in because you want to impact lives, and change student lives and help people to grow. And so I think it's intuitive for most educators and in this world where we're having to teach more, learn more, measure more, finding time to step back and help students identify their strengths, go with your gut on that and just do it.

Mark: Thank you, Rebecca.

Rebecca: Thank you.


Rebecca Matte HeadshotRebecca Matte, M.S. is an Associate Professor of Education at Landmark College in Putney, Vermont. She has nearly 30 years of experience in the fields of learning disabilities, student life, and the transitions to college and work. She is a proponent of strengths-based learning, is a Birkman Certified Professional, and she also uses the CliftonStrengths Assessment. Rebecca’s holistic approach to the classroom and curriculum is born of her years dedicated to students who learn differently, and her goal is to ensure that students understand how their practices and engagements outside of the classroom are connected to their success. She is co-principal investigator on the National Science Foundation’s Access to Innovative Education in STEM grant, where she works with colleagues to design and implement programming to support low-income, neurodivergent students in STEM fields. Rebecca earned a B.A. in English and Communication from the University of New Hampshire and an M.S. in Human Service Administration from New England College.


Mark DiPietro Headshot

Mark DiPietro is Vice President for Marketing & Communications at Landmark College. Prior to joining the College in 2013, he had been a public relations consultant, an editor, and a newspaper reporter. At Landmark College, Mark has been responsible for Landmark’s international brand-building efforts across digital and traditional media outlets. He has organized media appearances, speaking engagements, and panel presentations for Landmark College faculty and staff, and he has presented on topics related to marketing and enrollment, including at the National Association of College Admissions Counselors’ national conference. Mark also served on the steering committee of the Landmark College Center for Neurodiversity when it opened in 2018. This year, he was appointed to the Board of Directors of the Learning Disabilities Association of America. Mark earned a B.A. in Journalism from Northeastern University and is currently enrolled in Landmark College’s Post-Baccalaureate Certificate in Learning Differences and Neurodiversity.


Topics: Podcast, Heinemann Podcast, Neurodiversity

Date Published: 03/16/23

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