Student Profiles: Yasmin Helou
“Begin with that most terrifying of all things, a clean slate.”
Yasmin Helou gave that advice—the words of author Anna Quindlen—to a crowd of TC master’s students at commencement on May 15, and it could well stand as a description of her experience at Teachers College. A 1995 TC graduate with a fulfilling position working with emotionally disabled students in the New Rochelle school district, she nevertheless felt that she needed more from her scholarly life. With the support of Doug Greer, TC Professor of Psychology and Education, she came back to catch up on where the science of behavior analysis had progressed in more than a decade and is now racing on to her Ph.D.
The change has come with sacrifices. To move forward with dissertation work, Helou felt she needed to work in a research-based school using Greer’s model, Comprehensive Application of Behavior Analysis to School (CABAS). That meant leaving her position in New Rochelle to work with eighth graders in a special education-only school. The students are older and the milieu is different, but she believes her experience with general education allows her to bring a different perspective to her students.
Helou has no regrets about the time she took between degrees. “I’ve come back to TC in a position of strength,” she said. “If I decide to be an administrator, how amazing will it be that I can say ‘I spent 15 years in a classroom; I know exactly what you’re going through.’”
This time, though, Helou’s not taking a break—she started as an official Ph.D. student in behavior analysis two days after her commencement speech. She just published her first journal article, on writer immersion, which will be published in the Journal of Early and Intensive Behavior Intervention, and presented her work at a conference in San Diego. However, she’s taken to heart some advice from Greer, a devoted long-distance runner: “It’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon.”