Donna Sacco is one of three UNC Charlotte professors taking part in the Queen City PodQuest competition sponsored by National Public Radio (NPR) affiliate WFAE. According to WFAE, five podcasts will receive one-on-one mentorship and compete for a cash prize and a podcast series at the station.
Sacco is a professor in the Special Education Department of UNC Charlotte. She started teaching here two years ago and is teaching Introduction to Special Education, Methods for Diverse Learning and a special education math class.
Sacco has not always been a teacher; she started her career as a professional actor. She did voice-overs, commercials and a little film work. She was also in a 90s television show called “Homicide Life on the Street.” After having two kids, she went back to school for her Master’s degree and later got her Ph.D. from George Mason University.
Her interest in education began after she started substitute teaching for special education classes. As a way to connect her passion for helping those with disabilities and her thespian talents, Sacco started a theater program in a psychiatric facility. When she observed the impact she made, she grew even more passionate about making a difference in the lives of children and teens with disabilities.
Sacco is a faculty advisor for two clubs on campus: Best Buddies and the Student Council for Exceptional Children. Best Buddies is a college organization for students to pair up with a child with disabilities. Best Buddies is participating in a walk on April 6 as a way to connect, dance and laugh with those who have intellectual or developmental issues. Professor Sacco has been involved with this organization for over 10 years and is excited about what the club is doing.
Sacco has always had a heart for the parents of kids with intellectual or developmental issues as well. She says, “Often parents are not expecting to be put into that situation and do not know how to take care of a child with special needs.” Professor Sacco remembers when she was a parent; there were often situations when she had no idea what to do.
This is what gave her the idea for her podcast. Her hopes for her podcast are to connect families and to help them with questions they might have. Each episode centers around a theme related to special education. There are two guests: a parent to share a personal story and an expert to share solutions and strategies for managing the issue at hand. For example, one week the podcast might feature a parent whose child has ADHD accompanied by an expert from the National Center on Learning Disabilities.
Sacco hopes to title the podcast “Our Exceptional Children.” The first round of the competition runs until Feb. 20 and NPR will release the top five at a later date.