Scholars, Mentors, Teachers

Stephen J. Hernandez

Dr. Stephen Hernandez has worked for more than three decades serving individuals with special needs. Most recently, as the Director of Early Childhood Special Education, he co-directed two grants totaling $2.5 million from the federal Department of Education, to launch the MSEd in Special Education Early Childhood Intervention and the MSED in Inclusive Early Childhood Special Education.

"As a former school administrator, I know the value of having special educators with the exceptional skills that scholars will acquire in these programs," he said.

Prior to joining Hofstra in 2004, Dr. Hernandez served for 10 years as assistant director of education at the Brookville (NY) Center for Children's Services, where he provided day-to-day management of early childhood programs for young children. Prior to that, he served as administrator of United Cerebral Palsy of Westchester for 20 years.

Dr. Hernandez has presented at many professional conferences, including the first annual conference on Autism Spectrum Disorders at The College of New Rochelle, New York State Association for the Education of Young Children Annual Conference, New York State Council for Exceptional Children Annual State Conference, Annual Conference on Autism at Hofstra University, International Association of Special Education Biennial Conference in Vancouver, British Columbia and the New York State Council for Exceptional Children's Conference in Saratoga Springs.

Dr. Hernandez knew from early on that special education was his calling. During his undergraduate years at Fordham University, he got a job at a group home for individuals with cognitive disabilities. He switched his major from history/social studies education to special education.

"I was so inspired by the residents of the home and their sincere desire to learn and socialize," he said, "that it prompted me to pursue special education as a career."

Dr. Hernandez's teaching interests include understanding emotional and behavioral disorders of children and youth as well as the assessment and diagnosis of young children with developmental delays and disabilities. His research centers on collaborative teaming, interdisciplinary intervention and the management of children's challenging behavior. His research has been published in the Journal of the American Academy of Special Education Professionals, in an article titled "Evaluation of Push-In/Integrated Therapy in a Collaborative Preschool for Children with Special Needs."

Dr. Hernandez has dedicated himself to helping students prepare for the edTPA, a performance-based portfolio assessment that all New York State teacher certification candidates must pass to become teachers in subject-specific areas. During his tenure as Associate Dean for Grants and Teacher Performance Assessment, Hofstra students' pass rate on the edTPA has consistently exceeded the statewide average. And under his guidance, the majority of Hofstra's aspiring teachers have achieved mastery status – the highest level possible.

He is a member of the Council for Exceptional Children, the National Association for the Education of the Young Child, The American Academy of Special Education Professionals, and The International Association of Special Education. He also serves on several statewide boards representing children with and without disabilities, including the New York State Council for Exceptional Children as well as the Association for the Education of Young Children.

"We prepare students to successfully complete the edTPA exam from the first day that they enter their classrooms here at Hofstra," Dr. Hernandez said. "A lot of schools look at the completion of edTPA as something uniquely confined to the student-teaching process. We look at it as something that has to begin the first day the students become enrolled in our School of Education. We're not looking at edTPA as a singular event but as something that is integrated into their overall preparation and planning [to become] teachers."

Dr. Hernandez recently completed a chapter on video analysis of edTPA portfolios that will be published in a book later this year. During student teaching experiences, students must build an edTPA portfolio that demonstrates the ability to plan effectively, teach a three- to five-lesson sequence, and assess instruction and learning results in order to guide future teaching. Video clips of the lessons taught must be included in the portfolio. Dr. Hernandez analyzed several videos and showed how the illustrations in the videos warranted the edTPA scores. He developed his research into a "what to do and what not to do" guide aimed at teacher preparation faculty and students preparing for the edTPA.

"Preparation for successful teaching is the overall goal with edTPA, and [Hofstra's] reputation has become well known in the field," he said.