John Sutterby

John Sutterby

Dr. John Sutterby is an associate professor at the University of Texas at Brownsville and a leading outdoor play advocate for child development and societal justice. Believing that “play is necessary,” he agrees with the early playground movement leaders that “the playground would benefit society as well as the child.”1 One of his concerns is the inequity of park and play space locations for underserved communities.

After earning a Bachelor of Science degree in Early Childhood Education from the University of Texas in Austin, Texas in 1989, Dr. Sutterby began his work experience as a substitute teacher for the Austin Independent School District.2 By the 1990-1991 school year, he was a Pre-Kindergarten Teacher at the Davila Elementary School in Houston, Texas and a Job Coach and Life Skills Trainer for the Gulf Coast Center Mental Health, Mental Retardation Recovery Services.

Beginning in 1991, Dr. Sutterby was a Pre-Kindergarten Teacher at the American School of Valencia in Valencia, Spain. During the following four years teaching, he also furthered his education by obtaining a Certification as a English as a Second Language Instructor from Trenton State College in New Jersey in 1994.

Bilingualism and bilingual teachers have continued to be one of Dr. Sutterby's areas of specialty.3 This was reinforced by his Master’s degree in Early Childhood Education earned from the University of Texas, Austin in 1996, for which his master’s report was “Implementing Dual Language Programs in Early Childhood Classrooms.”

Over the next five years, Dr. Sutterby taught in a variety of positions at the University of Texas, Austin, including as a teaching assistant and later as an assistant instructor in the School of Education. He also was a Lab School Instructor in the Department of Human Ecology and a mentor/tutor in the Athletic Department.

Dr. Sutterby added teaching at Central Texas College in Killeen, Texas and at the University of Texas, San Antonio Department of Bilingual/Bicultural Education to his responsibilities in 2000. He was recognized that year for his teaching abilities by being awarded the University of Texas, Austin School of Education's Assistant Instructor of the Year award given by the Graduate Students' Association.

In 2001 Dr. Sutterby moved to Brownsville, Texas, located on the border of Texas and Mexico, and became an instructor at the University of Texas, Brownsville's School of Education. The following year in 2002, he completed his Ph.D. in Multilingual Studies from the University of Texas, Austin with a dissertation on “Cross Cultural and Cross Linguistic Play Interactions in Early Childhood Dual Language Classrooms.”4

With his doctorate degree completed, Dr. Sutterby became an assistant professor at the University of Texas, Brownsville and Texas Southmost College (UTB and TSC). In 2006 he became the Project Coordinator and then the Project Director for Early Childhood Educator Professional Development Grant which lasted three years. That same year he was honored with the 2006 Exceptional Merit award from UTB and TSC. Then in 2007 he became an associate professor and for two years (2007-2009) he was also an Adjunct Graduate Faculty at the University of Houston.

While his teaching in Brownsville has largely been with Latino students, Dr. Sutterby's research has also included the role of children's play and playthings, including outdoor play environments.5 In 2002 he and co-researchers received a $10,000 grant from International Play Equipment Manufacturers Association (IPEMA) to study play and physical activity. The following spring he assisted in acquiring a $250,000 grant to develop a playground at Edelstein Park in Brownsville. At the same time he acquired a grant from State Farm to develop a learning project towards developing a playground for Longoria Elementary School.

He has authored and co-authored journal articles, government documents, industry reports, books, and chapters within books concerning bilingualism, the importance of play in children's development, and research based suggestions for playground designs. Some of the topics include:

  • “Play is Essential for Brain Development”
  • “All access pass: Outdoor play for all children”
  • “Making playgrounds fit for children and children fit on playgrounds”
  • “Kids getting older younger: The Adultification of children's play”
  • “It doesn’t just happen: Essential contributions from playgrounds”
  • “Creating play environments for early childhood: Indoors and out”
  • “Recess and the accountability movement”
  • “Legislating recess”
  • “What kids don't get to do anymore and why”
  • “Notes from the land down under: Transforming a sterile urban schoolyard into a nature wonderland”

He co-authored The Developmental Benefits of Playgrounds (2004) with Dr. Joe Frost, Pei-San Brown, and Candra Thornton.6 During this time he also co-authored six reports for GameTime concerning specific playground elements such as swings, overhead equipment, height issues, and climbing behaviors.7

Besides writing and publishing, Dr. Sutterby has served as a peer reviewer, co-editor, and editor for a variety of scholarly journals, studies, and newsletters. He has participated on forums and discussion boards, including being on the Board of Advisors for IPEMA. He has led Early Childhood special interest groups for both the National Association for Bilingual Education and the American Educational Research Association,8 and for The Association for the Study of Play he has served on the Board of Directors as the first Vice President and as President.9

Nationally, Dr. Sutterby joined Dr. Joe Frost, Tom Norquist, and Lisa Moore in 2007 in presenting concerning the history and relevance of playgrounds in America at the annual meetings of both The Association for the Study of Play and the Association for Childhood Education International. Previously in 2005, he had assisted with a paper for the National Association for the Education of Young Children annual meeting concerning “Unlocking the doors to outdoor play” and more recently in 2009, he presented a paper with colleagues concerning “Who gets to play? Examining access to quality play experiences as a social justice issue.”

Dr. Sutterby believes that “Play matters in the community because it is where children spend most of their time growing up, learning, exploring, interacting, (and) discovering the world around them.” He maintains that well-designed parks and playgrounds and well placed parks and playgrounds are “crucial vehicles for inclusion, stimulating positive interactions among park users of all ages, abilities, and backgrounds.”10

  • 1. Sutterby, John. “Social Capital: Bridging social networks for community vitality.” Words on Play – A Treatise on its value by leading play scholars. PlayCore, 2011. pp. 20-21.
  • 2. “Curriculum Vitae: John A. Sutterby.” The University of Texas at Brownsville and Texas Southmost College, College of Education. < > 14 June 2012.
  • 3. “John A. Sutterby, Ph.D.” The University of Texas at Brownsville and Texas Southmost College, College of Education. < > 14 June 2012.
  • 4. Op.cit., “Curriculum Vitae.”
  • 5. “Authors: John A. Sutterby.” Eye on Education. < > 14 June 2012.
  • 6. Op.cit., “Curriculum Vitae.”
  • 7. “Research.” GameTime. < > 14 June 2012.
  • 8. Op.cit., “Authors: John A. Sutterby.”
  • 9. Op.cit., “Curriculum Vitae.”
  • 10. Op.cit., Sutterby.