Hi, I'm Deborah Vilas!
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I am an educator, child life specialist, social worker and writer, whose passion is anything that supports children’s development and healing in the face of everyday life or trauma. I specialize in helping children and families cope with hospitalization, loss and developmental challenges. My mission is to promote open-ended, child-centered play in hospitals, schools and at home. I consult with teachers, hospital personnel and parents to provide meaningful and therapeutic play experiences for children and adults. I have been teaching grad students in education and child life for 15 years, Prior to that, I was a child life specialist and a teacher. I have years of accumulated knowledge and passion that I wish to share with parents about the value of child-centered open-ended play and the skills to facilitate it. I have published many articles on the topic of children and play. My publications are listed on www.debvilas.com.
What's your philosophy on what it means to be a great teacher?
A great teacher shows unconditional positive regard for all children and families, kindness, structure and support. She is energetic and dedicated.
What advice would you give to someone who is considering becoming a teacher?
The more training a self reflective practice you have, the better teacher you will be. It is rewarding and exhausting at the same time. Self care is key to longterm teaching.
In your opinion, what is the role of the live teacher in a world where it is becoming increasingly easy to get access to information through the internet and online courses?
Nothing replaces face to face teaching, the interaction of people in place and time. In order to pick up on nonverbal cues, develop relationship and trust, and many more intangibles, all of us need to interact in person at some point. And that's just with adults. Children need to interact in a hands on way with others and their environment to optimize learning.
Who was your favorite teacher and why?
My second grade teacher, Barbee Oliver Carleton. She saw my love of words and invested in me, introducing me to poetry, reading and writing. She encouraged me and made me feel special. I was in touch with her until she died at the age of 93 this past year.
What is your philosophy on and approach to behavioral management?
By showing unconditional positive regard to all those in our care, and being transparent about our work. By paying teachers adequately for their work. By putting children first.
Do you have experience working with children with special needs? If so, please specify.
Yes. As a child life specialist I worked with children of all ages and backgrounds in hospitals. As a therapeutic teacher at the Karen Horney Therapeutic Nursery, I worked with children with emotional and developmental disorders.
Are there any projects you’ve done (related or unrelated to teaching) that you’d like to share?
I have taught hospital play specialists in Japan and the Czech Republic. I was the lead investigator on an international survey on play in hospitals in North America, and I was a subject expert for the development and filming of the video "That's Child Life!" available on youtube.
It has been many years since I worked directly with children and families.