In too many schools, children with intellectual and developmental disabilities continue to be separated from their peers and to lack access to a quality education. 

Carly Roberts, who joined the University of Washington College of Education this fall as an assistant professor of special education, wants to make sure all children feel valued at school. Roberts earned her master's degree while working as a special education teacher in Alaska, then completed her PhD in special education at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Roberts recently answered questions about her research agenda, what courses she'll be teaching and some of her interests outside the walls of Miller Hall.

What drew you to education?

In the spring of my freshman year at [Whitworth University] I was exploring majors and took a course called Exploring Teaching which was an intro to the profession and was paired with a field experience. I was immediately hooked. I liked the complexity of working with kids who came from a variety of backgrounds and experiences and I particularly enjoyed the challenge of working with kids with disabilities.

Growing up, school was always something I was excited about and a place where I felt safe and valued. As I entered into education I realized that wasn’t true for all students. This spurred my desire to help shape schools and classrooms into places where all students feel welcome, valued and a part of the learning community.

Describe your research agenda.

My research centers on two strands:

  1. Interventions that facilitate access to the general education curriculum for students with intellectual and developmental disabilities, particularly in literacy; and
  2. Qualitative research examining issues pertaining to teacher quality, evidence-based practices, and instructional context in intellectual and developmental disabilities.

My goal is that through a combination of intervention research and qualitative research, I can design, implement and evaluate the effectiveness of literacy interventions for students with intellectual and developmental disabilities that will be feasible for teachers and practitioners to implement in inclusive classroom settings.

What attracted you to the UW College of Education?

The UW has an incredible national reputation both at the broader College-wide level, as well as within my field, special education. I encountered the work of UW faculty frequently in my training and research and have always been impressed by the innovative approaches they take when it comes to conducting research in authentic educational settings and improving teacher education. All of the students, faculty and staff I encountered during my interview reinforced the College’s commitment to advancing equity in education and partnering with local communities to enact change.

What courses will you be teaching and what current/future courses are you most excited about?

This fall I am teaching EDSPE 501: Foundations of Special Education and I will teach EDSPE 507: Instructional Methods for Students with Moderate to Severe Disabilities during the winter quarter. I am really enjoying 501 so far but am most excited about the methods course. I love teaching methods courses because I am passionate about providing pre-service teachers with opportunities to learn about best practices and engage in meaningful learning experiences where they have the opportunity to enact and reflect on those practices within their own field experiences.

What’s something that students and colleagues should know about you?

I was born and raised about an hour north of Seattle in Stanwood, Wash., and I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to live and work in the Pacific Northwest again. I moved out of state right after graduating from [Whitworth] and my goal has always been to move back to Washington to work in the state and communities that have shaped who I am. Working at UW and living in Washington is fulfilling to me on both a personal and professional level.

Besides your work, what’s something that you are passionate about?

Outside of work I love to hike, share meals and go on adventures — both near and far — with my family and friends. When I’m not hanging out with family and friends you can usually find me drinking tea and reading a good book.


Dustin Wunderlich, Director for Marketing and Communications