Merritt speaker to encourage valuing ‘everyday actions’

Angela B. Hurley

Angela B. Hurley

Good is all around us, Angela B. Hurley believes.

Unfortunately, says the professor of education at Transylvania University, the negative often distracts our attention and drowns whatever impact something positive might have made.

For example, almost everyone turns their eyes toward parents screaming at a misbehaving child, but few notice the examples and lessons of excellent parenting that are far more common while largely invisible.

Recognition afforded to people who “stand above the crowd” creates a similar disconnect.

“We live in a time when you have to be exceptional to be noticed, and we’re always telling our young people, ‘Be the best you can. Be exceptional. Go out and excel,’ ” Hurley says.

“But if everyone did that, we’d have to change the meaning of the word ‘exceptional,’ ” she adds. “And, in doing so, we devalue the importance of the normal, everyday actions that we do in our lives, that give us joy as human beings and give us meaning. Much of what is really important is what we’re not even noticing.”

Hurley, the 2016 recipient of NIU’s James and Helen Merritt Distinguished Service Award for contributions to philosophy of education, will visit Thursday, Oct. 20.

Reimagined courtyard opens

courtyard-3Once home to a frightening thicket of withering trees and patchy grass, the courtyard outside the ramp between Gabel and Graham halls now offers a picturesque place of serenity.

Funded entirely by the generosity of friends of the College of Education, the work wrapped up just in time for the autumnal equinox.

Visitors can study, eat picnic lunches, wander the stepping stones or simply enjoy the sunshine and tranquility, says Betsy Hull, assistant to the dean in the College of Education. Faculty with small classes also are welcome to teach there for a change of scenery.

“It’s open to everyone,” Hull says, “and we hope that everyone uses it.”

The “Confluence Courtyard” began as an idea in February of 2015, when the former chair of the Department of Special and Early Education proposed turning the space into a “sensory garden.”

Barbara Schwartz-Bechet and Hull needed an expert in horticulture to guide them, however, and realized that resource was available at nearby Kishwaukee College.

What happened next came as a pleasant surprise.

Matt Ewert, an instructor at Kish who took their call, asked to see the space for himself. During his visit to NIU, Ewert mentioned that he taught a course in landscape design: Why not turn the courtyard planning into a class project?

A look behind the College of Education’s edTPA numbers

Laura Tuma

Laura Tuma

Laura Tuma felt uneasy when she first heard about the edTPA, the new assessment she would need to pass before receiving teacher licensure in Illinois.

“It was very intimidating at first. It was very scary not knowing what to expect,” says the recent graduate of the Department of Kinesiology and Physical Education. “It was new to our professors, too, so that almost made us more intimidated. If they didn’t know a whole lot about it, how were we going to be prepared?”

She needn’t have worried.

With nurturing guidance from her professors, Tuma passed her edTPA – as did 100 percent of undergraduates in the NIU College of Education who submitted their materials in the spring of 2016.

The College of Education’s most recent numbers are well ahead of the state and national results. The college’s teacher-candidates scored higher than the national average in all but one rubric, where they tied, and higher than or equal to the state average in all rubrics.

“My professors took the bull by the horns and were able to break it down, step by step,” Tuma says. “They integrated chunks of the edTPA into all of our classes.”

No edits necessary

John Evar Strid

John Evar Strid

Achieving the unimaginable is no easy task, and doing so is something most people will never know.

John Evar Strid is not among them.

The associate professor in NIU’s Department of Literacy and Elementary Education recently learned that the TESOL Journal accepted the first version of his manuscript, “The Myth of the Critical Period.”

He also was invited to join the top-tier journal’s editorial review board.

“Wow … you have done the almost impossible,” Joy Egbert, editor of the journal, wrote in an Aug. 25 email to Strid. “Nicely done.”

Strid’s article examines the “critical period hypothesis,” which holds that the learning of language becomes considerably harder following the “ideal time” to acquire that knowledge.

It was good news to one reviewer, who reported that “the article turned around my thinking. All this time, I believed that there was little use in trying to correct pronunciation with older learners.”

“The manuscript presents a seminal case that will motivate the full spectrum of (journal) readers, from TESOL researchers, teacher-educators (and) TESOL teachers,” the reviewer wrote. “Readers will concur that older learners can, and do, develop a new language efficiently or more efficiently than those acquiring a new language starting at a very young age.”

How to save a life

NIU receives grant to prevent suicides through awareness

mental-health-chalkA $300,000 grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration will work to decrease stigma around mental health and promote resilience in the NIU community.

NIU’s three-year grant, awarded to collaborators from the NIU College of Education’s Department of Counseling, Adult and Higher Education (CAHE) and NIU Counseling & Consultation Services, will fund various training programs and an awareness campaign.

“Like every other campus across the country, we’re seeing more and more students presenting with mental health issues than we have in the past,” said Brooke Ruxton, executive director of Counseling & Consultation Services and a licensed clinical psychologist, “and we’re doing something about that.”

Called “B-Safer” – an acronym for “Building Suicide Awareness and Fostering Enhanced Resilience” – the initiative officially begins Sept. 30. The B-Safer team also includes Suzanne Degges-White and Carrie Kortegast, chair and assistant professor in CAHE respectively.

Workshops will include “gatekeeper” training for faculty and staff, who will learn how to identify at-risk students and how to respond when they do.

The B-Safer program also will offer awareness training for peer leaders from student organizations on how to recognize signs of trouble in their friends and classmates.

Singing NIU’s praises overseas

College of Ed alumna values, imparts NIU lessons

Lalitha Gowdanahalli Ramappa visits Altgeld Hall in August.

NIU alumna Lalitha Gowdanahalli Ramappa visits
Altgeld Hall in August.

Lalitha Gowdanahalli Ramappa was teaching children with special needs through a spiritual organization in her native India when she came to an important realization.

“I didn’t have enough knowledge to teach them,” Lalitha says. “I wanted to learn more skills and how to be an effective teacher so I could really teach them better.”

That mission brought her to the United States – sponsored by her uncle – to enroll at the College of DuPage and, eventually, at NIU. She graduated from the NIU College of Education in December of 1993 with a master’s degree in special education.

Returning to India, Lalitha began volunteering at a school called Vivekananda Kendra, located in a rural area.

While there, she began applying her NIU training and evangelizing for the College of Education.

“I thank NIU for giving me such a nice education. I applied all of those skills in my school. I learned how to give them feedback, how to assist their skills and their intelligence, how to motivate them to learn,” she says.

Gold medals are not the only reason to get youth involved in sport

Written by Paul Wright, Lane/Zimmerman Endowed Professor

The 2016 Summer Olympics in Brazil have given us the opportunity to marvel at the heights of human potential. We have been able to watch amazing displays of athleticism and skill from the most elite competitors on the planet. As inspiring as these athletes and their performances are, they represent an extremely small fraction of the number of people involved in sport around the world.

The vast majority of youth who get involved in sport will never compete for Olympic gold. In fact, many will never compete outside of their surrounding community. So what other reasons are there for youth to become involved in sport? The benefits are too numerous to mention, but include physical fitness, motor skill development, positive social interaction, mental toughness, communication skills, and confidence.

Dr. Paul Wright and his colleagues in the Department of Kinesiology and Physical Education (KNPE) are interested in ways that youth sport programs can be intentionally designed to promote positive youth development and social change. In particular, how can sport be used to teach life skills (such as leadership and goal setting) that youth can use in other areas of their lives? Research shows sport programs that have this sort of focus help youth to reach their potential in life and to develop a greater sense of social responsibility.

College of Ed names Walker Associate Dean for Academic Affairs

David WalkerDavid Walker has been named associate dean for Academic Affairs at the NIU College of Education.

Currently a professor in the Educational Research and Evaluation program within the Department of Educational Technology, Research and Assessment (ETRA), Walker’s research interests include statistical code and algorithms, effect sizes, structural analyses, predictive analyses and the general linear model.

As such, he has experience teaching undergraduate assessment and graduate statistical and research methodology courses as well as mentoring and serving on master’s and doctoral student thesis and dissertation committees.

His administrative background includes five years of experience as the College of Education’s Coordinator of Assessment, including areas of program accreditation and licensure. Also, he has served on numerous departmental, college and university-level committees pertaining to assessment and curricular initiatives.

In his new role, Walker will champion all curricular activities, work to strengthen and align assessment practices, and oversee student recruitment and retention efforts college-wide.

“I am so pleased to have David take on the associate dean of Academic Affairs position,” Dean Laurie Elish-Piper said. “He brings a great deal of expertise with assessment, accreditation and curriculum to the position, as well as his strong commitment to collaboration, mentoring and innovation.”

College of Ed names Pitney Associate Dean for Research, Resources and Innovation

William PitneyWilliam A. Pitney has been named Associate Dean of Research, Resources and Innovation at the NIU College of Education, effective July 1st.

Currently a professor in the Athletic Training Program within the Department of Kinesiology and Physical Education, (KNPE), Pitney’s research focuses on employment issues experienced by athletic trainers in various practice settings. As such he has investigated professional socialization, role strain, work-family conflict, mentoring, and professional development. His administrative experience includes director of resources and planning in KNPE, athletic training program director, president of the faculty senate, and executive secretary of the university council.

“I am so pleased that Bill will be taking on the role of Associate Dean for Research, Resources and Innovation,” Dean Elish-Piper commented.  “Because he approaches his work with a trustee mentality and his leadership from a servant-leader perspective, and I am confident that he will be able to make many meaningful contributions to help lead the College into the future.”

In his new role, Pitney will lead several initiatives on behalf of the college, to include: leading the development of a research cluster focused on innovation in teacher education; developing and overseeing professional development, mentoring, and job coaching for faculty and staff and creating new innovative faculty initiatives related to e-learning and other methods of delivery for courses, conferences, and symposia.

NIU teacher candidates spend time in Chicago and Texas classrooms

Teacher candidates visit Altus Academy

Educate Local LogoOn April 28th a group of Elementary Education teacher candidates traveled to Altus Academy in Chicago. Altus Academy provides college preparatory education to 2nd-8th grade students from historical minority groups, low-income families, and first generation college graduate households.

The NIU teacher candidates were paired with Altus Academy 2nd and 3rd grade students and spent the day mentoring, encouraging and providing one-on-one academic support. Each of the academy students were assigned a character from the Laura Ingalls Wilder novel, titled “Little House in the Big Woods”. Together the NIU teacher candidate and Altus scholar prepared a tri fold presentation board, oral presentation, costume and props to be presented and shared with otCharacter Cafeher students, administrators, parents, and guests during the culminating activity – the “Character Café”.

“It was such a great experience visiting this school because all of the kids had such high spirits and smiles on their faces. Seeing how proud all of the parents were when they came to see the projects was so heartwarming,” said participant Katie Krewer.


Teacher candidates gain classroom experience in Texas