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Alumnus blends theory and practice

  |   Kristen B. Morales   |   Permalink   |   Alumni,   Spotlight

Justin Lane is a College of Education graduate who practices what he preaches.

Inspired to pursue graduate work after years working with preschool-age children, Lane graduated from the University of Georgia in May with his Ph.D. Now, his work in early childhood special education and autism spectrum disorder (ASD) will continue with his new position as an assistant professor at the University of Kentucky's department of early childhood education, special education and rehabilitation counseling. He teaches classes on behavior management and instruction.

Justin Lane

Lane says he was drawn to UGA's special education program because he had the opportunity to conduct research while continuing to work with children and teach undergraduate and graduate classes. He came to UGA after earning his master's degree in early childhood special education and completing the Behavior Analysis Certification Program from Peabody College at Vanderbilt University, where he began training teachers, staff and parents of children with ASD.

"I ended up at UGA because I always had an interest in research," he says. While at UGA, "I focused on research studies in preschool classrooms with a focus on functional and communication skills, and I assisted in teaching courses."

Lane says he is drawn to ways we can make preschool instruction more efficient while balancing practical issues of classroom management. By giving teachers the tools to better manage behavioral issues, he says, lessons can be even more effective. And because he has years of experience in preschool classrooms and working with children with ASD, his research and methods are from the perspective of a teacher and practitioner.

David Gast, Lane's professor and advisor at UGA, says Lane has a kind, gentle demeanor that puts students and parents at ease. "He's one of the most humble doctoral students I've ever worked with."

Gast adds that because Lane received the Jan L. Branham Scholarship for Autism Education during his three years at UGA, Lane was able to volunteer more in the College of Education's clinic and on-site at a local elementary school. The scholarship is awarded to a graduate student who specializes in ASD research and education.

"He would spend four to five hours in an autism spectrum classroom in Oconee County," says Gast. Lane's dedication served as a role model to undergraduates and graduate students. "It was perfect to have Justin modeling to these new people coming into the program."

"I really feel like I was given a lot of guidance on how to become a better researcher and writer and teacher," says Lane. "Dr. Gast gave me opportunities to teach courses almost every semester, so I feel I was prepared for the challenges of a new professor. I feel like I was able to gain those experiences and also have some independence to explore my research.

"What I did at UGA was fine-tune my interests, and that will keep informing my lines of research," Lane adds. "I developed this foundation of research studies that I'm now able to build on. It's really taking what I learned there and building upon it."

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