Faculty/Staff Detail

Maria Timberlake

Maria T. Timberlake, PhD (she/her) is an Associate Professor in the Foundations and Social Advocacy Department and the Director of SUNY Cortland’s Undergraduate Research Program. The overarching theme of Dr. Timberlake’s scholarship is concern for students whose communication, sensory needs, perceived intellect and troubling behavior make them vulnerable to being misunderstood and underestimated. Her recent research focused on educators’ interpretation of ambiguous policy language, (i.e. disability, high standards, access) and implications of the repeated use of capitalist worker jargon (i.e. productivity, accountability, competition) to describe educational expectations and priorities for students receiving special education services. Her current study investigates the experiences of disabled college students and their intersecting identities.  

Dr. Timberlake was awarded the 2015 Daring to Dream Award for Social Change from the University Of Maine and the Researcher Hero Among Us Award from the American Association on Intellectual & Developmental Disabilities.  She also received the SUNY Cortland 2016 Excellence in Teaching Award, 2016 Fine Teaching Development Award and the 2020-21 Rozanne M. Brooks Internalized Curricular Development Award to study disability and schooling in Sri Lanka.

Before coming to SUNY Cortland Dr. Timberlake provided professional development in inclusive education to schools across Maine and is a former general and special education teacher. She has two grown sons and three very spoiled dogs.


  • Ph.D. Social and Disability Policy, Brandeis University, Heller School for Social Policy and Management 2013     
  • Certificate of Advanced Graduate Study in Special Education, University of Maine  2008
  • Certificate in Brain Research in Education, University of Washington 2006
  • M.Ed Special Education: Students with Severe and Multiple Disabilities, University of Maine 1986
  • B.S. Elementary Education, Northeastern University 1985


Dr. Timberlake loves inspiring SUNY Cortland students to become competent teachers who are well-prepared to create welcoming, caring, diverse and stimulating classrooms for their future students.

Undergraduate courses

  • FSA 411 Planning and Instructional Strategies for Special Educators
  • SPE 270 Introduction to Special Education.
  • INT 290 Honors sophomore colloquium


  • FSA 600 Inclusive Education Pedagogy
  • FSA 625 Inclusive Curricular Pedagogy for Adolescents with Disabilities
  • FSA 651 Understanding and Conducting Educational Research
  • FSA 652 Master’s Project Teaching Students with Disabilities gr. 1-6
  • FSA 653 Master’s Project Teaching Adolescents with Disabilities gr. 7-12


Peer-reviewed publications

Ashton, J. & Timberlake, M. (forthcoming) Stories From the Cafe: Using Informal Spaces for Professional Growth. Journal of Education.

Timberlake, M. (2020). Recognizing ableism in educational initiatives: Reading between the lines. Research in Educational Policy and Management, 2(1), 84-100. https://doi.org/10.46303/repam.02.01.5

Timberlake, M. T. (2017): Nice, but we can’t afford it: challenging austerity and finding abundance in inclusive education, International Journal of Inclusive Education, 22(9) 954-968. https://doi.org/10.1080/13603116.2017.1412518

Timberlake, M. Burns-Thomas, A., & Barrett, B. (2017) The allure of simplicity: scripted curricula and equity. Teaching and Teacher Education. 67, 46-52. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tate.2017.05.017

Timberlake, M. (2016).  The path to academic access.  The Journal of Special Education.  49,(4) 199-208. https://doi.org/10.1177/0022466914554296

Leutz, W., Warfield, M. Timberlake, M., & Chiri, G. (2015). The infrastructure of participant-direction for Medicaid-funded in-home autism services for children in Massachusetts. Journal of Policy and Practice in Intellectual Disabilities, 12, 27-36. https://doi.org/10.1111/jppi.12103

Timberlake, M. (2015). Inclusion and the Gifts of Art. Review of Disability Studies:  An international journal. 11 (3) 2-4. https://www.rdsjournal.org/index.php/journal/issue/view/v11i3

Timberlake, M.T., Leutz, W. N., Warfield, M. E. & Chiri, G. (2014). “In the driver’s seat”: Parent perceptions of choice in a participant-directed Medicaid waiver program for young children with autism. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders. 44, 903-914. 10.1007/s10803-013-1942-4

Timberlake, M. T. (2014). Weighing costs and benefits: Teacher interpretation and implementation of access to the general education curriculum.  Research and Practice for Persons with Severe Disabilities. 39, (2) 83-99. https://doi.org/10.1177/1540796914544547

Warfield, M. E., Chiri,G., Leutz, W.N. & Timberlake, M. T.(2014). Family well-being in a participant-directed autism waiver program: the role of relational coordination.  Journal of Intellectual Disability Research, 58, (12), 1091-1104. DOI: 10.1111/jir.12102

Parish, S.L., Magana, S., Rose, R., Timberlake, M. & Swaine, J.G. (2012) Inadequate health care of Latino children with autism and other developmental disabilities. American Journal on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities 117(4) 304-315. DOI: 10.1352/1944-7558-117.4.304

Magana, S., Parish. S.L., Rose, R., Timberlake, M. & Swaine, J.G. (2012) Racial and ethnic disparities in quality of health care among children with autism and other developmental disabilities. Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities 50(4) 287-299. DOI:10.1352/1934-9556-50.4.287

Book Chapters

Ashton, J. Sniatecki, J. and Timberlake, M. (under review) Challenging the Narrative: How Unexamined Behaviorist Beliefs Can Sabotage Trauma Informed Practices.

Miller, A., Stinson, C., & Timberlake, M. T. (2022) Grappling with the Tensions: Cultivating Justice-oriented Praxis and Practice through Collaborative Autoethnographic Poetry. In D. Hernandez-Saca, C. Voulgarides, & H. Pearson (Eds.). Understanding the boundary between disability studies and special education through consilience, self-study and radical love.

Timberlake, M. (2020) “PAAP Season”: A New Rationale for Segregating Students with Significant Cognitive Disabilities. In G. Q. Conchas, B.M. Hinga, M.N. Abad, & K.D. Gutierrez, (Eds.), The Complex web of inequality in North American schools: Investigating educational policies for social justice. (pp. 202-216). https://doi.org/10.4324/9781315170152

Timberlake, M. (2019) An Unexpected Journey with My Mother. In P. Lalvani (Ed.) Constructing the (M)other: Narratives of Resistance at the Intersection of Motherhood and the Politics of Normal.(pp. 67-81) Peter Lang Publishing. https://doi.org/10.3726/b15664

Barrett, B., Burns Thomas, A., & Timberlake, M. (2017). Flipping the script: Teachers’ perceptions of tensions and possibilities within a scripted curriculum. In B. Barrett, U. Hoadley and J. Morgan (Eds). Knowledge, curriculum and equity: Social realist perspectives.(pp. 167-181) London: Routledge.


  • Director, Undergraduate Research Council.
  • Chair, Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching Committee
  • Outgoing Chair, School of Education Curriculum Committee
  • Outgoing Chair, FSA Department Curriculum Committee
  • Disability Resources Advisory Committee
  • Technology Accessibility Committee
  • SUNY Cortland Disability Climate Committee
  • Past committee member: Education Policy Committee 2014-2016; Project based Learning Committee 2015-2019, Teacher Education Candidate Review Committee 2014-2018. Professional Development Schools (PDS) Partnership Advisory Council, 2015-2019. Center for Teaching Innovation Advisory Committee.