Sonoma County Office of Education

Teachable Moment: Judy Waller's students give her reminders that no one size fits all

12/19/2019 -

Judy Waller’s students are always giving her reminders that no one size fits all. Waller has been teaching students as a SCOE speech-language pathologist for 18 years.

“As speech and language pathologists we know that communication is difficult for our students or they wouldn’t be on our caseload,” said Waller. “And so trying to make it as fun and as interesting as possible is key.”


Waller teaches speech and language to students at eight different school sites, including SCOE’s Labath and Mendocino sites, and Olivet Elementary School. She also teaches students who work at Oliver’s Markets in Santa Rosa and Windsor, Cost Plus, and Memorial Hospital.

A teachable moment that Waller recalls is a special connection with a student who was a huge fan of 80s heavy metal bands. “He loved Metallica, Judas Priest, Dokken, and AC/DC. He knew the band members, the lyrics, the albums, the trivia - all of it,” smiled Waller. “And it was great because that’s my era so I thought ‘oh fun!’”

Waller’s student was generally quiet and shy around others, however finding that musical connection helped him understand reciprocal language and conversation.

“A lot of the Transition students are working on pragmatics,” continued Waller. “It’s the social use of language, being able to know how to start a conversation, knowing how to keep a conversation going, knowing that maybe the tone of voice you might use with your best friend is going to be different than your supervisor at work.”

“By the time we were done with the school year,” remarked Waller, “he was able to ask me questions back and forth and also work on full sentences and articulation because a lot of those rock bands have some pretty tough lyrics!”

Waller says flexibility when working with students’ needs is important in helping them achieve their goals. “Being able to read the students, using what you have in the moment, and thinking on your feet. I really enjoy the collaboration piece. Next to the students that’s my favorite thing. Because our students need a team not just one person.”