College of Ed continues to post nearly perfect edTPA pass rates

Nicollette Wlodek

Nicollette Wlodek

Nicollette Wlodek knew that the video camera was rolling, but she didn’t mind.

Wlodek, an Elementary Education major from NIU, stood confidently before a classroom of Huntley School District fifth-graders to teach a literacy lesson on comparing and contrasting characters in a fictional story.

She changed nothing in her delivery, even though she was keenly aware that this one demonstration of her teaching would become part of her mandatory edTPA submission. Passage of the edTPA, which measures a teacher-candidate’s abilities in planning, instruction and assessment, is required to obtain teacher licensure in Illinois and several other states.

Despite the high stakes, Wlodek says, “the edTPA did not change my personality, or the way I was acting, when they were videotaping me.”

But the edTPA will make her “a better teacher,” she says.

“I am already a very reflective teacher, but the edTPA taught me to do that in a more formal setting where I am documenting my thoughts,” she says. “It really forces you to sit down and analyze what it is you taught your students and how well they understood it. What problems did they get right? How does that compare to the rest of the class? What can I do to make these skills more understandable? I will take the time to really analyze my teaching.”

One hundred percent of the 52 Elementary Education majors who submitted edTPA materials this spring passed. So did 100 percent of NIU College of Education graduate students in teacher licensure programs.

All but one student in each of the college’s other licensure programs (Early Childhood Education, Physical Education and Special Education) also passed the edTPA, maintaining the college’s 98 percent pass rate.

Jennifer Johnson

Jennifer Johnson

Jennifer Johnson, the College of Education’s director of teacher preparation and development, credits some of the success to assistance and preparation provided by professors and the university’s Office of Educator Licensure and Preparation.

Faculty in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction, for example, integrate aspects of the edTPA throughout their coursework. Help is also available from Judy Boisen, the Office of Educator Licensure and Preparation’s full-time edTPA coordinator.

However, Johnson says, it’s the students who truly deserve the applause for meeting and exceeding the demanding standards of the edTPA.

“Because the edTPA is a performance-based assessment, our candidates are being asked to demonstrate more than what they have learned in their teacher-training programs,” Johnson says. “They are being asked to demonstrate an understanding of teaching and learning within their own context of the student-teaching experience.”

Thanks to the edTPA, she adds, prospective employers know that NIU graduates “are prepared to be contributing members of academic teams.”

Meanwhile, she says, passage boosts morale and confidence: “I believe the successful completion of the edTPA reinforces for our candidates that they are ready.”

Wlodek is ready.

Raised in Streamwood, she is breaking new ground in her family by becoming a teacher. She is also fulfilling a longtime ambition that matches her personality: Even at family gatherings, she says, she spends more time playing with children than socializing with other adults.

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Wlodek teaches a math lesson to Huntley fifth-graders.

“I have such a caring heart, and I think kids are just amazing. They don’t get enough credit for what they can do, and they can do so much,” she says. “Ideally, I’d like to teach third- through fifth-grade. I really like those ages. They’re fun, and they come in at the beginning of the school year shy. I like seeing them grow as individuals, not just academically but personally.”

Juggling her edTPA submission with her student-teaching and her part-time job proved challenging and time-consuming, she says, but the May graduate believes that her hard work was worthwhile.

“Children will benefit from teachers who have gone through the edTPA,” Wlodek says. “Teachers are taking more time, really looking into the students’ strengths and weaknesses, and when teachers are doing that deeper analysis, children are getting that much more individualized attention.”

She also has advice for current College of Education students following her footsteps.

“Listen to the NIU professors when they say, ‘Try to get ahead,’ ” she says, “and form strong, genuine bonds with your students; it makes for a strong will to learn.”



Social Justice Summer Camp offers educators ideas to reach students in ‘a different way’

sjsc-5Long lines in the lunchroom. Climbing the gymnasium rope. Nagging parents. The quadratic formula.

Anxieties like these are the stuff of high school.

For LGBTQ teens, though, they take a backseat to the issues of sexual orientation.

Changing clothes not in a locker room but in a nurse’s office on the other side of the building, a welcome accommodation that also comes with isolation. Never knowing whom to trust with their feelings. Bullying not just from classmates but also from fathers who threaten disownment and siblings who heartlessly mock them and their friends.

Such overwhelming concerns can impede learning; require understanding and sensitivity from teachers, most of whom probably can’t relate. Students from diverse ethnic and racial populations, also confronted by generations of oppression, equally yearn for that kind of support. Again, it’s often in vain.

But K-12 teachers and other educators from DeKalb and Elgin who attended June’s inaugural Social Justice Summer Camp at the NIU College of Education will return to their classrooms and schools this fall with eyes wide open to students from diverse and historically marginalized backgrounds.

That progress starts with the recognition that educational disparities exist although they likely are invisible to those not impacted.

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Campers talk after a LGBTQ panel discussion.

Joseph Flynn, a professor in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction and one of the camp’s organizers, said the participants had “a wonderful time, intellectually and socially.”

“People left on a high note, invigorated to get back to their schools and districts and to get to work. Some were talking about addressing the climate within their schools. Some were looking at specific policies as well as the practices and curriculum in general,” Flynn said.

“Overall, the comments we had from campers were largely positive,” he added. “That doesn’t mean that some folks didn’t struggle with some of the issues, and we anticipated that. Learning about issues of oppression in all forms can be challenging because it’s speaking against the status quo.”

NIU’s camp, organized by Flynn and colleagues James Cohen and Mike Manderino, the three-day camp featured keynote speakers, panel discussions, film screenings, experiential activities, reflective conversations and the development of social justice action plans for schools.

Themes of the days included “Building from the Beginning: Understanding Multicultural and Social Justice Education Historically and Currently,” “Pieces of a Whole: Recognizing the Relationships among Systems, the Collective and the Individual” and “Now What? Considerations on the Practice of Social Justice Education.”

Mike Manderino

Mike Manderino

History lessons of how various forms of oppression emerged, along with the thought-provoking content of the films, spawned many side discussions.

“The film series was especially powerful,” Flynn said. “We would finish a film, and an hour of conversation would go by – and we still weren’t done talking.”

During a June 13 panel discussion featuring three DeKalb High School students who are LGBTQ, however, the language was plain and the message clear.

“We’re just trying to make it through, like the rest of you,” one teenager said to the audience. “School should not be a place you fear or dislike.”

Members of the audience, meanwhile, were able to walk in someone else’s shoes.

The three students spoke of bullying in the hallways, observing that teachers often “won’t step in until it gets physical and someone gets hurt.” They talked of academic lessons illustrated only with “white, hetero families” and history curriculum that ignores the contributions of LGBTQ individuals. They discussed sexual education that covers sex and abstinence but not asexuality.

They expressed hurt over hearing the attendance called with their birth names and of being addressed by the wrong pronouns – situations that are not only uncomfortable but also potentially dangerous if the teachers inadvertently “out” students.

Yet they also smiled camaraderie available through school, especially when groups such DeKalb High School’s Gay-Straight Alliance are active. Meeting other LBGTQ students means “I’m not broken,” one said. “There is nothing wrong or strange about this, and I don’t have to be ashamed. This is something other people have experienced. I’m not alone.”

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James Cohen (left) was one of the camp’s organizers.

Educators in the room stood and applauded.

“I’m in awe of your courage,” one told the panel. “Thank you for being who you are.”

The teens also provided advice for the teachers who might have LGBTQ students – or parents – in their classrooms.

  • “Normalize your curriculum.”
  • “Give students someone to talk to. Let your students know you are available and open to them. If a student comes to you and tells you about their parents not accepting them, be there for them.”
  • “Respect every one for who they are – or who they want to be.”

Andria Mitchell, principal of DeKalb’s Tyler Elementary School, came to the Social Justice Summer Camp to reinforce the work of District 428’s diversity planning.

“This has been an amazing experience,” Mitchell said.

“It has been liberating and emotionally draining. It’s been an eye-opener with big moments of aha. I even had to catch myself a couple times, and say, ‘Oh! I have that bias,’ or, ‘I’ve never thought of it that way.’ ”

Mitchell believes teachers must respect diversity with the same level of importance they assign to knowledge and content.

“When you’re able to have this social justice lens, along with the latest knowledge, you reach your students in a different way,” she said, “and you reach all of your students.”

Jackie Jagielski, a sixth-grade gifted program teacher at Glenbrook Elementary School in U-46, wants to ensure that all children are provided with “opportunities to use their voices” and safe spaces.

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Campers came from the DeKalb and Elgin school districts.

NIU’s camp offered “concrete ways” to do just that, she said.

“I’ve always had an interest in social justice issues, particularly now in the political climate we find ourselves in. It’s harder for people to find common ground,” Jagielski said. “We need to celebrate and humanize all of our students, regardless of their backgrounds and in all the ways that they can be diverse.”

Roy Kim, a social worker in District 428, appreciated the camp’s “wealth of historical context” and “hearing the experiences of the other attendees.”

“Social justice is half of my job description,” he said. “Nothing could be more relevant for me in doing my job effectively.”

Ana Arroyo is principal of Elgin’s Parkwood Elementary School, a Title I school where 90 percent of the students qualify for free or reduced lunch. Most are Hispanic.

She attended NIU’s camp to help her teachers advance their “understanding of where our children are coming from,” something already in progress. Parkwood, nominated for PBIS (Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports) “Gold” recognition, is one of the Top 5 safest schools in U-46.

“I’m planning to deliver professional development to my staff on teaching to our population. It’s about listening to students, and giving students a platform to speak, share and engage in their learning,” Arroyo said. “If we can impact change at such an early level, that’s going to continue through middle school and high school.”



Werderich, Wickens leading Curriculum and Instruction

Donna Werderich and Corrine Wickens

Donna Werderich and Corrine Wickens

Two familiar faces are leading the Department of Curriculum and Instruction during the search for a new chair.

Donna Werderich and Corrine Wickens began serving July 1 as acting chair and acting associate chair, respectively.

Werderich will oversee undergraduate programs and the Master of Arts in Teaching while serving as the coordinator of Elementary and Middle Level Education programs.

Wickens will oversee graduate programs, which include three different M.S.Ed. programs and the Ed.D., while maintaining her role as reading coordinator for the reading/language arts unit.

Laurie Elish-Piper, dean of the NIU College of Education, calls Werderich and Wickens “a dynamic duo who will provide excellent leadership for the Department of Curriculum and Instruction.”

“Donna and Corrine are both great teachers, researchers and colleagues, and they have a strong commitment to NIU, the College of Education and to Curriculum and Instruction,” Elish-Piper said.

“They have both served as program coordinators, chairs of committees and task forces, and in leadership roles in professional organizations,” she added. “They bring a perfect balance of history and vision for the future of the department.”

A member of the College of Education faculty since 2007, Werderich is grateful for the opportunity to lead the department and to facilitate and supportive, collaborative environment.

“I want to help support teamwork, encourage collaboration and the building of meaningful relationships so that we can continue to work together toward the common good of all,” Werderich said.

“We have a department filled with diverse skills, talents, knowledge and expertise. I hope to seek out ways to help members realize their potential as they are our greatest resource who will continue to strengthen and positively affect the future,” she added.

“More than 20 years ago, I entered in to the teaching profession with a love for teaching and strong desire to serve and make a positive difference in the lives of students and the broader field of education. I feel very fortunate to be able to continue on this path by serving alongside a cadre of dedicated and talented colleagues.”

Wickens, who joined NIU in 2008, is excited to help lead a department with “so many great opportunities and yet untapped potential.”

“We have a new doctoral cohort in U-46, a flourishing ESL/Bilingual unit, new opportunities in Elementary Education with new pathways in the program and articulations with local community colleges,” Wickens said.

“We also have a first group of candidates scheduled to graduate in spring 2018 from the new Middle Level Teaching and Learning program, a new online program in the MS Ed Literacy-Reading program, growth within the ALL postsecondary unit and the recent and successful Social Justice Summer Camp,” she added. “Donna and I hope to continue to support the innovative practice going on within these diverse areas within our department.”



Anderson joins CoE to lead finance, operations analysis

Alicia Anderson

Alicia Anderson

Alicia Anderson began Monday as the College of Education’s new administrator of Finance and Operations Analysis.

Anderson comes to the college from the NIU Controller’s Office, where she has worked since joining the university in 2014 for a role focused on asset management and financial reporting.

Her responsibilities in the college will focus on development and implementation of the college budget; financial and productivity data analysis; budget modeling; and reporting.

She also will perform data collection and analyses to support college functions, and will make projections that will guide the college’s decisions and strategic direction.

But Anderson is most eager to begin collaborating with department chairs and office managers to help them understand how to allocate their funds.

“The Controller’s Office is all administrative and not student-focused,” Anderson says. “I wanted to be on the academic side of things. It reminds me in tough times why we’re here.”

Located in Graham Hall 314, Anderson reports directly to Dean Laurie Elish-Piper.

“I am thrilled for Alicia to join the College of Education because of her strong background in financial reporting and data analysis,” Elish-Piper says. “She is a very collaborative professional, and I am confident that she will provide excellent leadership and support with financial modeling, analysis and data-based decision-making.”

Anderson, who holds a bachelor’s degree in accountancy, has held financial positions in for-profit and non-profit sectors.



Project SLIDE couples lessons in biodiversity with preparation for teaching diverse learners

project-slide-2A chance to explore and learn in a natural, outdoor setting is uncommon for most fifth-graders at Golfview Elementary School in Carpentersville.

But students and faculty from the NIU College of Education provided just that this spring.

“I can safely say that it was an experience the fifth-graders will never forget,” says Gary Swick, an adjunct instructor of Foundations of Education in the NIU Department of Leadership, Educational Psychology and Foundations.

“For a lot of these kids, they’ve never been on a trail in a forest preserve, just walking from one place to another in the woods,” he adds. “It was highly sensory and stimulating for them.”

Part of the NIU’s Project SLIDE (Science Literacy in Diverse Education), the day of field activities April 21 at Schweitzer Woods Forest Preserve in West Dundee provided hands-on learning in environmental science and biodiversity.

NIU students first interacted with the Golfview fifth-graders April 7, when they presented five classroom lessons on those topics.

“Gary and I shared some students in their second professional semester – the diversity block, which involves courses about working with diverse learners,” says Dianne Zalesky, an instructor in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction. “In talking to Portia Downey, we heard about Educate Local, and how we could get our students out into a different community with diverse learners.”

project-slide-4Educate Local provides teacher licensure candidates the opportunity to gain experience and develop their perspective of education through volunteering, observing and participating in various campus, community, and educational settings.

Hispanic children make up nearly 96 percent of Golfview’s enrollment, offering a fertile training ground for students in Zalesky’s “ESL Methods and Materials” course.

Curriculum came from Project Learning Tree, a program of the American Forest Foundation that “uses trees and forests as windows on the world” to grow students’ understanding of the environment and actions they can take to conserve it.

“Their motto is, ‘It’s not teaching them what to think; it’s teaching them how to think.’ It’s critical thinking on environmental issues,” Swick says. “My students are certified Project Learning Tree instructors.”

Swick’s students, enrolled in his “Using the Community as a Resource” course, chose the lessons from Project Learning Tree’s book of “outdoor education recipes.” Five teams of Huskies deployed throughout five Golfview classrooms to present. Some taught two lessons, he says, while others tackled five.

“What really impressed me is how well they operated as a team,” Swick says. “It was almost like an internal combustion engine, where you have different pistons firing but they’re all driving the same thing forward. It was rarely one of them standing-and-delivering with the other four watching.”

Zalesky made sure her students practiced differentiation of their lessons to meet the needs of different learners.

project-slide-5“My students learned as much as the fifth-graders did,” Zalesky says. “The more experience you have working with students and applying theory to practice, the better – and that was invaluable. Delivering lessons is not just giving information. It’s interacting with the students. It’s grouping them. It’s classroom management.”

Language-related lessons including writing about shared experiences, she adds, which led to students on both sides of the teaching-learning spectrum creating a book of memories of their time together.

NIU’s students have gained priceless knowledge, Swick agrees.

First, he says, their toolkits now include the planning and delivery of curriculum. Second, he adds, they learned to adjust on the fly and to make improvements from one class to the next.

Their biggest realization, however, might lie in the confirmation of their abilities.

“It was a really great experience for them to be responsible for something this big – so many lessons, which is out of their comfort zone – and being able to adapt things while they’re doing it,” he says.

“Even though it was highly stressful, they thought it went really well, and they knew that if they could pull that off, they could do almost anything,” he adds. “They did a great job.”

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Alumni Accomplishments

Congratulations to these College of Ed alums!

Mary P. Haynes

Mary P. Haynes

The NIU Alumni Association honored two College of Education graduates as part of the 2017 Alumni Awards.

Mary P. Haynes, an academic success coach at the College of Lake County, received the Outstanding Young Alumni Award. Ann E. Rondeau, president of the College of DuPage, was the college’s honoree in recognition of her outstanding professional accomplishments and civic, cultural and charitable involvement.

Haynes, M.S.Ed. Adult and Higher Education, ’14, worked as an academic adviser at Waubonsee Community College before joining the College of Lake County two years ago.

She has a reputation for making a positive impact on the more than 500 students enrolled in developmental education classes, and works closely with 20 faculty members to receive early alert notifications, follows up with student concerns and provides proactive, hands-on support for 300 students in her caseload.

Ann E. Rondeau

Ann E. Rondeau

Rondeau, Ed.D., Adult and Higher Education, ’10, became the sixth president of the College of DuPage in July 2016. She is a past president of the National Defense University, a consortium of five colleges and nine research centers in Washington, D.C.

After her 2012 retirement from the U.S. Navy as a three-star admiral – she is the second woman to achieve this rank – Rondeau brought with her to civilian life extensive leadership experience that included serving as commander of the Naval Service Training Command in Great Lakes, Ill.

Jason Bednar

Jason Bednar

Jason Bednar, M.S.Ed., Educational Administration, ’04, and Ed.S., Educational Administration, ’16, begins a new job July 1 as principal of Field Elementary School in Park Ridge-Niles District 64. Bednar is currently principal of Brook Forest Elementary School in Oak Brook. He previously has served as director of elementary core curriculum and instruction at Indian Prairie District 204 in Naperville and as principal of Owen Elementary School. Bednar continues to pursue his Ed.D. in Educational Administration from NIU.

Heather A. Brown

Heather A. Brown

Heather A. Brown, Ed.D., Adult and Higher Education, ’12, was elected in March as director of Membership & Outreach for the Southeastern Women’s Studies Association. Brown is executive director of the Women + Girls Research Alliance at University of North Carolina-Charlotte. Her research focuses on the intersections between weight and learning in women as well as on the ethics and practice of research with stigmatized populations. She also is the co-editor of the Journal of Research and Practice for Adult Literacy, Secondary, and Basic Education.

Lauri Haugen

Lauri Haugen

Lauri Haugen, M.S.Ed., Reading, ’96, will start a new job this fall as principal of Fabyan Elementary School in Genvea CUSD 304. Haugen, who began her career as an elementary school teacher, also has worked as a literacy specialist and reading specialist in the Kaneland and West Aurora school districts. She joined District 304 two years ago to serve as the student assistance coordinator at Harrison Street Elementary School.

Ken King

Ken King

Kenneth P. King, M.S.Ed., Curriculum and Supervision, ’90, and Ed.D. Curriculum and Instruction, ’98, received a 2017 Silver Buffalo Award from the Boy Scouts of America. Created in 1925, the Silver Buffalo Award for distinguished service to youth is Scouting’s highest commendation. King, an Eagle Scout, has developed outreach materials that educate school board members and elementary, middle and high school teachers and principals on the value of the Scouting experience. He is a professor of Elementary Education at Roosevelt University.

If you’re a COE grad with news to share, please let us know – and send a photo! Our email address is ceduednews@niu.edu.



KNPE alumna visits alma mater with 266 middle-schoolers eager for reward of physical activity

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NIU graduate student Sarah Paver (right) explains
the rules of the game to Clinton Rosette students.

Katelyn Neidel wishes her daily P.E. class at DeKalb’s Clinton Rosette Middle School would last longer than 45 minutes.

That wish came true for Neidel and 265 of her classmates April 21 as they spent five hours at Anderson Hall banging drumsticks, shooting arrows at balloons, practicing martial arts, line-dancing, playing disability sports, testing fitness levels, trying their hand at yoga and parkour and even developing empathy skills.

“Just a second ago, we were in wheelchairs, which was kind of scary – but the basketball part made it cooler,” said eighth-grader Neidel, 14. “I think this is really fun. We’re getting to try a lot of cool activities.”

“We also ran agility courses to see how high we can jump, how fast we can run – and we’re competing against our friends,” added Ella Boyer, 13, also in eighth-grade. “It’s cool to see what you can do.”

So-Yeun Kim, associate professor Adapted Physical Activity in the Department of Kinesiology and Physical Education, coordinated this year’s Clinton Rosette visit. The annual field trip began five or six years ago, Professor Paul Wright said.

About three dozen KNPE faculty members and students volunteered to run the 10 stations.

knpe-crms-3“NIU has a professional development school relationship with Clinton Rosette. Our students do secondary clinicals and teaching at the school,” said Kim, who likes watching the “action and excitement” between professors, college students and middle-schoolers.

Clinton Rosette students also enjoy an aspirational opportunity to visit the NIU campus, explore one of its buildings and interact with college students, she added, while they participate in some physical activities outside of the typical middle school curriculum.

For Jen Montavon, a P.E. teacher at Clinton Rosette, the annual trip allows her to dangle a carrot in front of her students. They must earn their places by being dressed and on time for class each day, following directions and participating in at least 80 percent of activities.

“It gets our kids out of the building, and it gives them some incentive. These are the kids who made it all year long,” said Montavon, who earned her NIU bachelor’s degree in Physical Education in 1996 and completed a master’s in Adapted Physical Education here in 2008.

Bringing “the best of the best” also allows those students to focus on physical activities and fun rather than waiting while the teachers discipline less-behaved students, she added. Some of the children who come to Anderson Hall are quiet by nature, she said, and maybe missing out.

“It’s good to see those kids come here and shine in a different light,” Montavon said “and this is a P.E. teacher’s dream. The kids are all here doing different activities and having fun. How many kids are going to sit in a wheelchair and play basketball? To have these opportunities is amazing, and I’m really grateful to the KNPE department.”

Montavon also is a bit envious of the current KNPE students.

“We didn’t do this when I went through the program, but I wish I could have,” she said. “It’s really kind of a good step for them. In teacher preparation, they’re usually teaching their peers. Now they’re working with middle-schoolers who are the best of the best. It’s a good stepping stone.”

knpe-crms-9Kelsey Flicek, a freshman Physical Education major from McHenry, agrees.

“This is awesome,” Flicek said, taking a quick break from KNPE instructor Gail Koehling’s “drum fitness” activity. “I love how all of the kids get to be a part of our program, and it’s fun to interact with the kids. It helps you to get a lot of experience with students, to interact with them at different levels and realize that every student is different.”

Sean Carpen, a junior P.E. major, volunteered to earn extra credit. Within an hour, however, he no longer cared about boosting his grade.

“It’s a great experience for the kids, and it’s a great experience for us in learning how to teach the kids and assist them,” said Carpen, who spent his day at the archery activity. “This is hands-on experience. This allows you to connect. It gives you practice. I just love working with the kids.”

Carpen, who was motivated to pursue career thanks to an excellent P.E. teacher in high school, also found affirmation of his abilities. Before April 21, the native of Oak Lawn had never instructed anyone in the bow-and-arrow.

“This is great for me,” he said, “because now I know I can teach it.”



Pluim named LEPF chair

Carolyn Pluim

Carolyn Pluim

Carolyn Pluim nurtures an active curiosity.

An intense interest “in issues around health and well-being” prompted her to earn a bachelor’s degree in nursing from the University of Western Ontario in her native Canada.

When she moved to the United States shortly after graduation and could not immediately take the RN exam in this country, she enrolled at Michigan Technological University to study environmental policy.

That perfect intellectual combination – policy, its implications and health – soon led her to a Ph.D. program at Georgia State University, where she completed a doctorate in educational policy studies and social foundations of education.

In 2007, Pluim began her teaching career at the NIU College of Education in the Department of Leadership, Educational Psychology and Foundations.

One decade later, and after a year serving as acting chair of that department, her leadership role becomes official and permanent July 1.

“NIU has provided me so many opportunities for professional growth. Having been mentored by faculty inside our department and outside our department has been so beneficial,” Pluim says. “I enjoy the people who work in this department, and I enjoy helping to remedy or solve some of the issues that come up in a department that is this diverse and complex.”

Laurie Elish-Piper, dean of the College of Education, is pleased that Pluim has accepted the appointment.

“Based on her contributions this past year as acting chair, I am confident that she is highly qualified and motivated to lead,” Elish-Piper says. “Carolyn is a strategic thinker, problem-solver and consensus-builder who is well positioned to lead LEPF into the future.”

Pluim has taught courses in the foundations of education, the history of education, the ethics of education and education as an agent of change.

health-apple-2Meanwhile, she has continued to investigate the intersections of health and policy, especially as they relate to schools.

Research in this realm comes at a critical and problematic time, she says, as lawmakers begin to encourage forms of “healthism” in public schools by requiring fitness testing, body-mass indexing and even the distribution of “health report cards” to parents, guardians and state governments.

She is the co-author of “Schools and Public Health: Past, Present, Future,” and has written numerous articles and book chapters. She is collaborating with Australian colleagues as a partner-investigator on a University of Queensland-based project studying the digitization of school health and physical education.

Her work also explores how policies shape how children think about health and, in turn, come to understand and identify with their bodies.

For example, she has questioned the “give-it-to-the-schools” attitude that delegates conversations on difficult topics such as sex and drugs solely to teachers.

“That’s really a dangerous reflex – that, ‘We don’t need to think about drug education because the schools are doing that,’ ” Pluim says. “It obscures solutions that could possibly be more effective.”

Book cover of “Schools and Public Health: Past, Present, Future,”As department chair, Pluim will ensure that LEPF meets and exceeds the academic and professional needs of its students.

She is proud of recent work faculty in the department have done to reimagine and redesign programs, such as the Ed.D. in Leadership and Policy Studies and the Ed.S. in Educational Administration.

Her plans to maintain the quality of the nationally recognized M.S.Ed. in School Business Management call for continued recruitment and retention of excellent faculty and students as well as a sustained commitment to the program’s strong relationship with the Illinois Association of School Business Officials.

“I love the diversity of our department,” Pluim says. “We have very diverse faculty who have very different ways of seeing the world and of approaching their research. I love the people who are so passionate about what they do.”

Pluim lives in Sycamore with sons Jared, 13, and Calvin, 11.



Educate Global provides ‘world of opportunity’ for NIU students flying to teach in China, Taiwan

Educate Global logoThirty-seven NIU College of Education students are traveling to teach in Asia this summer, a “business trip” guaranteed to enrich and shape their professional lives in amazing ways.

Part of the college’s experiential Educate and Engage Program, the inaugural Educate Global journey will place NIU students at China’s Beijing Royal School from early July through mid-August or Taiwan’s Miaoli County Government Education Bureau Schools in July.

Huskie travelers depart in late June to teach English as a Foreign Language in summer camp settings to Chinese and Taiwanese pupils in third- through 12th-grades.

Undergraduates on the trip already have completed their first professional semester in Early Childhood Education, Elementary Education, Middle Level Teaching and Learning or Special Education. Some graduate students in the same licensure programs, or currently holding teaching licenses, also are making the flight to Asia.

And it’s impossible to beat the price: Educate Global covers an amazing package that includes round-trip airfare, room and board and cultural tours.

Laurie Elish-Piper, dean of the NIU College of Education, is excited to visit both sites to see Educate Global travelers in action as they “interact with their students, and embrace all of the cultural opportunities available to them in Taiwan and China.”

“I have long believed that travel is one of the best teachers about diversity, culture and one’s place in the world,” Elish-Piper said.

“Many of our teacher-candidates have not had the opportunity to travel internationally and to see education enacted in other parts of the world,” she added. “The experiences in Taiwan and China will help them understand teaching, learning and themselves as they live and teach in another part of the world.”

globeNIU students who participate in Educate Global will give themselves a leg up in the job market, said David Walker, associate dean for Academic Affairs.

Students can apply for the university’s Engage PLUS Academic Transcript Notation, which demonstrates such skills as critical thinking, organization and teamwork to employers and graduate program.

“Our program allows students to become more educated in their disciplines, and engaged outside of the classroom in areas such as experiential learning, hands-on learning, problem-based solving, research and other areas of teaching and learning,” Walker said.

“They’ll look back at this as one of the highlights of their undergraduate or graduate careers,” he added. “I know I did; I traveled to the Soviet Union in the late ’80s, and it really helped set my course later in life. We are helping our students to teach, learn and interact in a broad space.”

Beyond the experience of teaching in a foreign culture, the Educate Global travelers will receive classroom management and instructional coaching by onsite NIU faculty members. They will work with local teaching assistants who help manage students and the language barrier. They will assist with out-of-class activities that culminate in a closing ceremony.

Elementary school campers at the Beijing Royal School will learn conversational English through exploring fairy tales, emotions and the similarities and differences between the United States and China. Teenage campers will develop their English through examining aspects of American culture, including American movies and television shows.

School-age children in Miaoli, meanwhile, will learn American culture and customs, songs and music, science and social studies with a focus on the theme of comic books and superheroes. Each child will develop and write a comic book while learning to speak, read and write in English.

Terry Borg

Terry Borg

Terry Borg, director of the college’s Office of External and Global Programs, said the engaged-learning initiative opens “a world of opportunity” to students while also benefitting the college, the university and humanity itself.

“Looking at this from the big, big world perspective, the more opportunities that we take part in, where we meet and learn from people from other countries, the more we begin to recognize that we are all the same,” Borg said.

“We have families that we love. We want to learn. We want to achieve. All of these things are the same,” he added. “In an era when we’re concerned about building walls, and you’re either for us or against us, I believe this gives people cause to think that, ‘Maybe I need to be a more critical thinker than my government wants me to be.’ This might create an opportunity for more world peace and understanding.”

NIU’s students already have impressed Borg with “their commitment to be not just good but great educators.”

“Our students are concerned about teaching, and really concerned and excited about the students they’re going to teach. They’re committed to putting together very sound lesson plans based on objectives and standards,” he said. “They’re going to make NIU proud.”

Amor Taylor, a Middle Level Teaching and Leaning major in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction, wants to teach in China to “gain the knowledge necessary to view the world from different perspectives.”

“I think that I already view the world in different ways but teaching in China will add to these perspectives,” said Taylor, a native of Chicago.

Amor Taylor and Stephanie Eller

Amor Taylor and Stephanie Eller

“I also want to teach in China so that I can become a better teacher for my students. The best teacher advocate for students deals with all types of situations,” she added. “Teaching in China will give me another perspective on my students and put me in an environment that allows me to learn how to deal with a variety of students. I think this opportunity as a whole is just a great way to make me a better person, student and teacher.”

Stephanie Eller, a fourth-grade ESL teacher at Emily G. Johns Intermediate School in Plano Community Unit School District 88, expects her Taiwanese campers will teach her something. She graduated in May with her M.S.Ed. in Literacy/ESL from the Department of Curriculum and Instruction.

“This will be a chance to step into a new dimension of language instruction for me, and allow me to grow my skills as a teacher working with students who do not have a common language background that we can both rely on,” Eller said. “I am excited to not only teach my language to my students in Taiwan, but also hopefully learn from them as well.”

Borg is confident that Taylor, Eller and the 35 others will return with broadened perspectives as they complete unparalleled opportunities to put theory into practice.

Some will find the courage and motivation to seek teaching jobs overseas at international school and U.S. Department of Defense schools, he said. Others will gain a greater realization of the need in Illinois for more English as a Second Language teachers as well as for teachers of English Language Learners.

passportAll, however, will become superior teachers who “will never view their students or this career in the same way that they have before this experience,” Borg said.

“They’re going to understand now what it means when a students doesn’t understand something because they’re going to be in a place where English is not the main language, and they will translate that experience into their future students’ experience,” he said.

“Being away from their homes – flying 15 hours away, thousands of miles away – they are going to know what it means to be an environment that’s very alien to them,” he added. “And when they come back to classrooms in Illinois, they’re going to understand in a first-hand fashion about working with populations that are not indigenous here and how that feels for them.”

Elish-Piper shares Borg’s optimism – and is thrilled to see Educate Global become a reality as well as an incredible differentiator for NIU College of Education students.

“Whether our students plan to teach abroad, to teach in another part of the United States or to return to their hometown and teach,” the dean said, “Educate Global will provide them with a transformational learning experience that will forever change how they think about teaching, learning, language and culture.”



Unlocking potential: LEPF will honor donor Marguerite F. Key with launch of fellows program

Carolyn Pluim and Alan Clemens

Carolyn Pluim and Alan Clemens

When Alan Clemens attended a recent annual conference of the National College Access Network, which works to open the doors of higher education to underserved populations of students, he noticed something missing.

Representatives from colleges and universities were few.

“Higher education was heavily underrepresented,” says Clemens, an instructor in the Department of Leadership, Educational Psychology and Foundations (LEPF).

“Some sessions were designed specifically to speak to college retention, but those were more sparsely attended,” he adds. “The primary emphasis being put particularly on college access for these populations was at the high school level.”

At the same time, Carolyn Pluim, acting chair of LEPF, was soliciting ideas from her faculty about the possible creation of a fellowship program.

Dollars were available from the Marguerite F. Key Expendable Fund for the College of Education, but Pluim needed a purpose – a focus – for those who would participate in an annual institute in DeKalb.

“Our department has been blessed by Marguerite’s generosity for a few years now,” Clemens says, “and while the funds were being used effectively to enhance various student programs in the department, Carolyn was looking for something more substantial, something that honored the scope of Marguerite’s commitment.”

Marguerite F. Key

Marguerite F. Key

Clemens proposed a program that would bring together high school principals from across NIU’s service region to share their innovative ideas and best practices for not only shepherding underserved students into college but also preparing them for success there.

Pluim loved the concept.

“The Marguerite F. Key Fellows Program is a project in line with the vision and passion Marguerite has for supporting the preparation of future educational leaders,” Pluim says. “The program will recognize the great work Illinois principals are doing, and provide them with specialized professional development and growth opportunities.”

Nominations will open July 1 for the first class of fellows, who will meet in June of 2018 for a series of workshops and dialogues.

“What we’re hoping to find is real evidence of innovation, energy and ingenuity that’s being brought to the table in service of this very poignant need, and to put additional focus on this innovation, to increase opportunities for students to successfully achieve their college dreams,” Clemens says.

“There is research that shows – and I personally believe this – that those students across the country who, at this moment are facing the most significant obstacles to college access and college success, are the country’s largest source of growth potential,” he adds. “I can’t see any more noble purpose, or more potentially powerful purpose for the future of our country, than empowering these underserved voices.”

A seven-member advisory committee will guide the ongoing framework and rationale of the program as well as the selection, and work, of the fellows.

The advisory committee will consist of representatives of the Department of Leadership, Educational Psychology and Foundations, local school districts and the NIU Center for P-20 Engagement.

Fellows need only serve one year, Clemens says, but are always welcome to stay involved.

key-puzzleUndergraduate and graduate students with an interest in college attainment and success, public educational policy or other related issues also can participate, possibly obtaining independent study or internship credit for administration of the program or assistance with the institute.

Students who seize those opportunities will witness a sharing of expertise – the wisdom and work of leading principals in the region – along with the possible births of partnerships or design of grant proposals.

It’s something Clemens says matches current thinking on campus – “President Baker has always been very interested in examining the factors that contribute to student success throughout their P-20 educational experience,” he says – as well as the values of Marguerite F. Key.

Key graduated from Northern Illinois State Teachers College in 1944 with a major in biology and a minor in music. She taught one year, and then earned her master’s degree at the University of Michigan’s School of Public Health.

During most of the next year, she worked in the Illinois Department of Public Health in Springfield as a health educator. When the Kellogg Foundation funded a program in Illinois to place a health educator on the staff of each state college, Key came to Northern.

arlington-public-schoolsAfter she married four years later and moved to Washington, D.C., where her husband worked with the National Education Association, she began a 40-year career in the Arlington Public Schools as director of guidance in a middle school.

In 1995, after the death of her husband, she returned to DeKalb, where she continues to live.

She was on the original committee to place a one-room school on campus, served for 12 years on the Development Committee of the College of Education and has been able to assist 10 non-traditional women in the college in obtaining scholarships through the Philanthropic Educational Organization.