Member since: 1983
Occupation: Education professor at California State Polytechnic University in Pomona, and practitioner in Claremont, Calif.
Teaching by example: Fine schools budding educators in how to work with special needs children. He takes his undergraduate and graduate students to local elementary schools for reading enrichment programs and math nights so they can work directly with young children. His service-learning strategies earned him the California State University system’s prestigious Wang teaching award in 2001.
Early exposure: Fine’s maternal grandfather was blind, sparking Fine’s desire to work with people with disabilities. As a teenager, he worked with blind children and children with learning disabilities and also volunteered in a home for adults with severe developmental disabilities. Those experiences prompted him to pursue psychology in college. “Having my grandfather in my life taught me to be a giver,” says Fine. “It showed me that helping other people is something I truly enjoy.”
Man’s best friend: Fine became interested in animal-assisted therapy when, as a graduate student, he brought his pet gerbil, Sasha, to a program for children with disabilities. Fine saw that his gerbil had a calming effect on the children, who improved their behaviors just for the chance to pet Sasha. Fine spent the next three decades researching and writing in the field. He uses his two dogs, PJ and Magic, a cockatoo named Tikvah, and a bearded dragon lizard named Aussie in his therapy sessions to, for example, help stir emotions in hard-to-reach clients. In addition to his regular teaching load, he also teaches a course on animal-human bonding and animal-assisted therapy at Cal Poly.
More than meets the eye: Fine is a seasoned magician, whose best tricks include making snow appear and stringing together loose beads by throwing them in the air. As a member of the prestigious Magic Circle of London, the Magic Castle in Hollywood and the International Brotherhood of Magicians, Fine often travels to conventions where he trains aspiring magicians in the art of magic. He occasionally uses magic in his clinical work to illustrate such concepts as positive change.
“Magic lets me convey a lesson, like when I use a metamorphosis trick to teach the importance of transformation.”
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