Sports psychologist

BRENT WALKER ’94 was elected scientific program division head for the Association for Applied Sport Psychology. He has been an associate professor in the kinesiology and sports studies department at Eastern Illinois University since 2005. Brent holds a master’s degree in exercise science from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and a doctorate in kinesiology from the University of Illinois. He served as the mental training consultant for the U.S. Soccer Paralympic soccer team prior to the Beijing Paralympic Games. Brent and his wife CHANTELLE KEY WALKER, MBA ’00 live in Champaign.

Teaching in the Middle East

MARTY WEIS ’08 first got the idea to use his special education degree to serve overseas while passing by a Peace Corps poster in the Michel Student Center.

“When you get close to graduation, people ask, ‘What are you going to do?’” Marty recalls. “I couldn’t envision myself staying here and working in a classroom for 30 or 40 years. I thought, I’m young and relatively healthy with not a lot holding me back, so I started researching the Peace Corps. It seemed like an exciting way for me to use my degree.”

Fast forward to October 2009, when Marty left for his 27-month stay in Tafila, Jordan. Though he had more than a year of experience working as a teacher’s assistant in Mossville before departing, Marty found he had to amend his teaching methods upon arrival in the Middle Eastern village.

“You can’t bring an American style and expect that to work,” says Marty, who grew up near St. Louis. “You have to adjust.”

Tafila’s special education center, established in 1978, consists of about 40 students, many of whom had no schooling until age 9 or older. The school day is less than five hours long, and teachers ride the bus with the children to and from the center.

“The culture takes some getting used to,” Marty says. “Community awareness is still almost non-existent. A lot of people with disabilities are not even counted in the census, so my role here is really to educate people about what can and should be done and what is possible.”

Besides increasing public awareness about the need for special education, Marty equips teachers with new activities, conducts training in specific disabilities such as autism, and works directly with children on everything from brushing their teeth to playing checkers.

“The methodology I learned at Bradley is universal,” he says. “No matter where you are, the basic concepts like enforcing rules, sticking to a routine, working for rewards, and making the school day fun and engaging are so important.”

Aside from his Bradley degree, Marty went through two months of rigorous language and culture classes before beginning his assignment. Arabic didn’t come easily to him, but he’s catching on. “For someone who doesn’t speak Arabic, I probably sound fluent, but to people in my community, I have a ways to go. It is a difficult language, but I am learning new words every day.”

Before he returns home in December to teach in an American classroom, Marty would like to get his martial arts camp in Tafila up and running. Designed to bring community children of all ability levels together, the camp will also serve as a platform for special education awareness. “I want to show our students and the community that with a little time, patience, and cooperation, we can set a realistic expectation and work together to achieve it.”

– By Erin Wood Miller '09