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debbie bracke

Debbie Bracke

Associate Professor of Education

• Related: Fair and Equal by Dr. Bracke, reprinted in Faculty Focus

My professional career is marked by a variety of wonderful teaching and learning experiences.

I graduated from the University of Minnesota with a degree in psychology in 1977. 

Two years later, I was hired as a paraprofessional by the Moline School District. My duties were to assist certified staff in helping students with disabilities.  It was there that I discovered my passion for working with students with special needs. It was there that I realized the importance of intentional instructional experiences. It was there that I knew I wanted to be a teacher.

 I enrolled in a teacher certification program at Western Illinois University and eventually completed my Master’s Degree in Special Education. My areas of certification were in learning disabilities, emotional disturbances, behavioral disorders, and intellectual impairments. 

I taught special education for eight years - and immediately recognized the value of ‘differentiated instruction’ and ‘classroom community.’ With carefully designed instruction, it was possible to make a difference …a difference so significant, that ‘disabilities’ often became ‘possibilities.’ This understanding prompted me to pursue additional studies at the University of Iowa where I completed a PhD in Curriculum and Instruction (with concentrations in measurement, gifted education, and special education).

At the University of Iowa, I engaged in research that examined the impact of ‘Social Stories on Students with Autism Spectrum Disorders’ (published in Focus on Inclusive Education, Fall, 2009). I also assessed the ‘Impact of NCLB on Instructional Experiences, School-Based Services, and Extra-Curricular Activities’ in the Moline School District (published in The Journal of Reading, Writing, and Literacy, Volume 4, Issue 3, December 2010.) Current scholarship is oriented towards the relationship between parental involvement and student achievement (published in Education. Volume 133, Number 1, Fall, 2012).

Paper presentations at the Council for Exceptional Children, the Association of Teacher Educators, and the American Educational Research Annual Conferences have allowed me to share these studies with a broader community. Presently, I assist with a weekly parent support group at Longfellow Elementary Liberal Arts, our partner school. I am hopeful that lessons learned from these wonderful weekly gatherings with parents will inform additional research.

I am most fortunate to teach what I believe in at Augustana College.  EDUC 340, “Methods of Inclusion,” is a required course for Education major. It is part of a program sequence that links knowledge and skills with social inquiry and active citizenship. Differentiated instruction is the core of EDUC 340. Through class discussions and a 20-hour clinical experience, teacher candidates begin to conceptualize the process of teaching and learning as it relates to students’ readiness levels, interests, and learning profile characteristics. Our majors construct new understandings and expand their reasoning abilities so that they become a model for change.

In addition to EDUC 340, I supervise our teacher candidates and teach our “Student Teaching Seminar” – a series of highly interactive, student-centered sessions that parallel the student teaching experience. And, for the past three years, I have taken a group of my students to the Florida School for the Deaf and Blind for a one-week Augie-Choice Immersion Experience.  Responsibilities at Augustana include advising first-year students and elementary education majors, serving on the Accommodations and Supports Committee, the Student Policy Committee, the Teacher Education Committee and co-chairing our annual United Way Campaign. I am also the faculty advisor for Club Tennis and Augustana Crew. 

On a more personal note, I have lived in the Quad Cities for 36 years. My husband, Tom and I have three grown children and are slowly adjusting to this new stage in our lives. We are very active in the community - love to be with our children, bike, travel, play with our yellow lab, and cheer for the Augustana Vikings and Notre Dame football.

Specializations: Special education, Gifted education, Parenting, Autism spectrum disorders, Elementary education methods


  • B.A., Minnesota
  • M.S., Ed.S., Western Illinois
  • Ph.D., Iowa