Hello! I am Natalie Newman and I’ve been operating the Ershig Assistive Technology Resource Center (EATRC) for the last 5 years. I am married to Buzz Leake, who retired from Bellingham Police Department about 4 years ago. We have 2 adult daughters, one in Bellingham and the other in Montana. I have been a dog mom many times over, and currently have a co-parenting arrangement with Beth and Benny so I get my dog fix that way!
I have a very adventurous spirit, love a good laugh, and will try almost anything once. I enjoy reading, doing tricky crosswords, crocheting, decorating cookies, and eating good food. We have an RV, so anytime we can get out in that, ride bikes, hike, play pickleball, or go paddleboarding, it’s a good day.
What brought you to the field of special education?
I came into Special Education via Occupational Therapy. When I was studying for my master's degree in OT, I knew I wanted to work with children and if I am EXTREMELY honest, I wanted to work in the schools so I could have summers off...LOL!
I did a clinical internship with the Ferndale School District and ended up staying there for over 20 years. While employed in the schools, I worked with students aged 3-21 with various physical, cognitive, and social-emotional challenges. I was part of IEP teams trying to figure out how students could successfully participate in their education as independently as possible. This laid the foundation for my position here at the EATRC as providing assistive technology solutions for students was vital to their success and independence.
What is your favorite topic to teach at WWU and why?
I love teaching about universal design for learning and the consideration of how to remove and reduce barriers so that ALL students can learn. This is true for WWU students as well as P-12. The heart of UDL is all about meeting students where they are and helping them figure out how to get where they need/want to go. I like to emphasize the component of autonomy and choice. This really goes hand in hand with the mindset of Occupational Therapy.
I feel that if I can share at least one consideration, that at least one teacher can model in their classroom, that will make a difference for at least one student, then I did my job. The best part is that that one consideration will likely benefit more than one student!
What do you like about working at WWU?
Since I graduated from WWU in 1991, it feels like I have come full circle. I love the energy and beauty of the WWU campus. It was a bit of a transition for me to go from working with young students to young adult students, but I learn so much from them! I appreciate the collaborations I have with other faculty in the department around AT and UDL supporting their content. In addition, I have wonderful collaborative relationships with the DAC and the Tutoring Center to support their efforts with WWU students.
What do you like most about Bellingham?
I have lived in Bellingham/Whatcom County for most of my life and still have a lot of family in the area. We all get along, so I feel blessed that we are all nearby. I love how Bellingham has a small-town feel, yet it seems there is always something to do. The physical setting doesn’t get much better with access to the water, mountains, and the trail system. Anytime the sun is out in the Spring/Summer, I’ll be doing something outside. I especially love the Thursday night concerts at Elizabeth Park and the Kulshan Trackside at the Portal Village.