Carolyn Jester

Assistant Professor of Special Education

Working with families of children and young learners with delays and disabilities and making a difference in their lives is a very rewarding field. Sadly, research shows us that the field is growing and there is a great need for more specialized interventionists trained to work with special needs children and their families. There is hope as we educate our Henderson candidates to go into the field and make a difference in the lives of many

“Making a difference in the lives of children and their families.”

For Carolyn Jester, that’s the most satisfying aspect of her job as assistant professor of special education at Henderson State. Jester leads the state’s only developmental therapy education program.

Her interest in early intervention and early childhood special education was created by personal experience.

“I am a mom who has raised a child with a learning disability. When I, as a young parent with no knowledge of teaching or special education, realized my child was not meeting typical milestones, I went to the public school system for help and was not satisfied with their response,” she said.

“I was motivated to learn all I could to meet the responsibilities of being a mom in making sure my child received the education he was entitled to receive,” Jester said. “I felt it was not only my responsibility to help my child, but to assist other families and students who have special needs.

“I have been a teacher in a special education classroom. The knowledge and experience assists me in helping to meet the needs and challenges our current Henderson candidates face as they progress through field and practicum experiences.”

In 1997, Jester earned her B.S.E. and was dually certified in elementary education (grades 1-6) and special education (PK-12). She received her M.S.E. in elementary school guidance/secondary counseling from Henderson in 2001.

The developmental therapy certification program was already established when Jester joined the Teachers College, Henderson faculty in 2008 as assistant professor of special education.

“I soon realized that Henderson was the only university in Arkansas offering the developmental therapy program at that time,” she said. “I was personally motivated and intrigued with the wonderful idea of providing interventions to young learners and working closely with their families at an early age due to my history of teaching in the public school system and knowledge of the importance of providing early intervention.”

Jester began educating herself in this area by attending meetings with service providers and stakeholders, and working with the Department of Disabilities Services to learn all she could about the program.

“Candidates within our program asked that we offer a M.S. degree in developmental therapy,” she said. “I worked with Dr. Gary Smithey to help bring this idea to fruition. The online program has grown tremendously.”

Jester said she believes teachers are “called” to teach.

“But it’s not a profession that is a perfect fit for everyone,” she said. “As Robert Brooks states, ‘sometimes all the difference is made in a troubled student’s life with one charismatic adult who is oftentimes a teacher.’ I encourage Henderson candidates to be that teacher.”

When it comes to her teaching style, Jester said she is a “facilitator of learning.”

“I strive to make the most current evidence-based research practices available within the content of online courses. Email, telephone conversations, discussion threads and online meetings support this teaching style,” she said. “I enjoy reading and participating in discussion posts and collaboration with students.”

Jester advises potential students to visit centers that offer developmental therapy services and ask to shadow a developmental therapist for a day.

“I would also suggest and recommend talking to the developmental therapists regarding their duties, and meeting with parents of young learners with disabilities to learn more about the needs of infants and young learners with special needs,” she said.

Advanced Instructional Studies

Contact Info:

Degree and School:
M.S.E. / Henderson State University


• Resilience in children
• Educating parents of infants with developmental dalays and disabilities
• Social emotional infant mental health

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