Whitney Hanley

Assistant Professor, Special Education

Department of Special Education
University of Northern Iowa
Cedar Falls, IA 50614-0601


What drove your interest in your discipline? My experiences in a Co-op in High School. I worked at Girls Incorporated and one of our members with Down syndrome. I remember being in awe of her strength, boldness. I wanted to do more and be in a position where I could be part of helping other young girls with disabilities succeed.

What attracted you to UNI and the College of Education? UNI starting as a Teacher's College committed to service learning symbolized a strong foundation and focus on pedagogy. The College of Education also attracted me because of that continued commitment apparent in its' strong collaborative relationships with the community.

Why do you enjoy what you do? While in graduate school some of my previous students contacted me to check in and it made me so proud. It reinforced my mission of being a "champion" in every students’ life as the late Rita Person emphasizes is essential.

What is your teaching philosophy? Seek first to understand before being understood. My philosophy supports teachers positioning themselves as warm demanders. When there is an established relationship of trust and respect between students and teachers, the classroom becomes a safe space for students to productively struggle, share ideas and become confident in problem solving.

What do you hope students learn from you? The importance of self-awareness. As educators we are role models. The way we think about learning what we believe about what success looks like shows in our actions and interactions with students.

Areas of Expertise: 

Providing behavior interventions and supports for culturally and linguistically diverse females with or at risk of emotional or behavioral disorders. Community embedded action research. I aim for my research to inform current cross-system models for females with and at risk of E/BD who are often multiply served in the education, child welfare and juvenile justice systems.

Selected Publications: 

Hines, R.A., & Hanley, W. (2020). Break room: Developing a strategic approach in response to students experiencing stress in the classroom. PHILLIS: The Journal for Research on African American Women

Hines, R. A., Romualdo, A., Glavey, E., Jennings-Towle, K., & Hanley, W. (2019). Improving teacher preparation through community partnerships: Change model theory. Florida Association of Teacher Educators Journal.

Hanley, W., & Borland, J. (2019, in press). Students with Learning Disabilities. Shillingford-Bulter, A., Gonzalez, T. (Eds.), Demystifying the DSM for School Counselors. San Diego, CA: Cognella Academic Publishing.


B.S., University of Lousivlle, elementary education, learning and behavior disorders, 2009
M.Ed., Georgia State University, early childhood students with moderate/severe disabilities, 2014
Ed.S., Piedmont College, curriculum and instruction, 2016
Ph.D., University of Central Florida, exceptional education, 2020