Hatcher Brings ABA Lessons to Public School Students, Staff, and Parents
By Karen Blum
School psychologist Courtnay Hatcher, EdS, NCSP, BCBA, was busy working as a part of a behavior consultation team for Baltimore City Public Schools when her supervisor recommended that she and a few colleagues pursue certification in applied behavior analysis (ABA) from the Johns Hopkins University School of Education. At the time, there was a big push to adopt more of an ABA approach since her team was dealing with student behavioral issues.
Soon after starting classes, Hatcher says she told program director Tamara Marder, PhD, BCBA-D, that she found her people—professors and classmates who think and process the world as she does.
“What I love about ABA are the principles and the scientific approach,” Hatcher says. “It’s a framework of how you move through a problem systematically to figure out why one thing brings another. You can replicate that in any situation. I can figure out what a kid is trying to tell through behavior, or help parents in a community training figure out why they are struggling to communicate with a school system.”
Hatcher, who completed a post-master’s certificate in ABA in June 2020, says she thrived in the program. She appreciated that her professors were actively conducting research versus sharing old information, and that they encouraged students to have a strong foundation in ABA but value continuing education and incorporating that into practice.
“The ABA program at Johns Hopkins is crafted in such a way that even though all of us are exposed to the same curriculum and syllabi, our experience within the program is tailor-made to our needs,” she says. For instance, the program can adapt lessons for teachers versus other professionals. “Early on in the program, I expressed my desires for learning and my professors worked with me on an individual level to meet all of my personal and program goals. Even after completing their courses, professors were available for follow-up questions and support, which was helpful in preparing for the BCBA certification exam.”
Prior to graduating, Hatcher received several job offers. She now works for the Frederick County Public Schools system, supporting two elementary schools and an alternative school for grades 6–12. There, she works with students who have emotional and behavioral disorders, and autism. A fan of organizational behavior management (OBM), she also conducts trainings for adults on behavior modification and classroom management, and helps train paraprofessionals new to the school environment. During the pandemic, Hatcher helped support parents through trainings about how to transition their children to home-based learning.
She also is the CEO and lead trainer at A. Wright Education Consultants, LLC, a company that offers a variety of services to support students in school and at home by providing community-based workshops on topics such as educational polices, cultural awareness, mental health awareness, behavioral supports for the home setting, and virtual learning.
Even after completing course work, Hatcher says she calls on lessons learned during the program, such as how to vet research and find community support sources, audit her own work and learn from it, and ask precise questions to get at the root of a problem.
“There are still times when I reach out to my previous professors,” she says. “Even though I am no longer a student, they are more than willing to support my continued growth and learning. The whole field is very supportive.”
Hatcher says one of her greatest frustrations in education is that trends and fads come and go, and money often is invested in programs that have no research backing. Teachers are frequently asked to do more with less, which is unsustainable.
“For me, ABA brings a way for us to really think critically about what we’re doing, and to determine what works and doesn’t,” she says, “so we can do more with less and be more efficient with what we have—and not reinvent something that another school district is doing, which saves time and money.”
June 7, 2021
Courtnay Hatcher, EdS, NCSP, BCBA
Applied Behavior Analysis