Licensed Social Worker, Early Childhood Special Educator, Certified Child Life Specialist
Faculty Instructor & Advisor, Bank Street College of Education
USA, Mexico, Japan, Czech Republic, Brazil, Singapore, Australia
Ms. Vilas grew up in rural Massachusetts, an environment rich with play opportunities in nature, at home, and in school. She believes that these opportunities incubated and influenced a sense of joy, flexibility, and creativity that continue to inspire her work and her life.
Ms. Vilas majored in Sociology at Georgetown University and worked for several years as a paralegal in Manhattan, New York. Her experience as a volunteer coordinator at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, along with her natural curiosity and desire to help children led her to Bank Street College of Education. She obtained a Master’s Degree in Early Childhood Special Education with a concentration in Child Life.
After working in the child life profession and teaching at a therapeutic nursery, curiosity called again and Ms. Vilas returned to graduate school to explore social work and psychotherapy at New York University (NYU). For the past twenty years, she has taught and advised at the Bank Street College of Education, teaching courses in Child Development, Developmental Variations, Play Techniques, Loss in Children’s Lives, and Child Abuse Detection & Reporting. She is one of the founding advisors in the Child Life Masters Program, adores teaching and learning, and believes that “in the end, only kindness matters” (Jewel).
Ms. Vilas is widely known and respected for her wisdom and kindness, spending countless hours volunteering as a professional mentor and clinical supervisor for colleagues around the world. In 2016, she participated in a panel presentation about child life and technology at the United Nations. In 2014, Deb represented her profession and her country as a keynote speaker at the first global summit on pediatric psychosocial care in hospitals, addressing delegates from 46 countries on the importance of play for sick and injured children. In 2019, the Association for Child Life Professionals honored her with the Distinguished Service Award. Her blog www.pediaplay.com reaches followers in over 90 countries.
Ms. Vilas loves to express her creativity through writing, kayaking, and playing! And her colleagues are thrilled that she continues to love mentoring and teaching; supporting and challenging them along the way.