Laurie Elish-Piper named fellow
of Deans for Impact Academy

Laurie Elish-Piper

Laurie Elish-Piper

Laurie Elish-Piper, dean of the NIU College of Education, today was named an Impact Academy fellow.

She joins a cohort of 13 leaders chosen for their commitment to improving educator preparation; collectively, they lead programs that enroll more than 3,500 teacher-candidates in 11 states.

Eight of this year’s fellows lead programs at public institutions, three fellows come from private institutions and two fellows lead programs that are non-traditional pathways into teaching. Two fellows come from Minority-Serving Institutions.

“There are many challenges facing education deans, but by learning and working together through the Impact Academy fellowship, I believe we can address them,” Elish-Piper said. “I’m excited to work collaboratively with other deans to ensure we are preparing teachers who are ready to make a difference from their first day in a classroom.”

Many colleges report declining interest among faculty in administrative positions even as the role of dean grows more complex and important. In order for educator preparation to improve, the field needs leaders who can set a bold vision for improvement, motivate faculty and support individual and organizational learning.

Deans for Impact aims to fills this need through its year-long Impact Academy fellowship, which empowers a new generation of transformative leaders with skills, knowledge and strategies to help solve the complicated problems they’re facing.

“We believe that transformative leadership is the cornerstone of an educator-preparation program that embraces an improvement mentality and prioritizes candidate learning above all else,” said Benjamin Riley, founder and executive director of Deans for Impact.

deans-for-impact-logo“We’re thrilled to welcome 13 such leaders into the Impact Academy fellowship, and are excited to nurture and support these leaders as they embark on efforts to improve their own educator-preparation programs and the field more broadly.”

Launched in summer 2016, the Impact Academy fellowship combines intensive in-person sessions with ongoing support, mentoring and individual learning.

Fellows will kick off the year with a rigorous four-day academy in July 2018, and then extend their learning over the course of the fellowship through individual modules and ongoing leadership coaching from Deans for Impact member deans.

Each cohort of Impact Academy fellows is limited to no more than 20 leaders, each of whom went through a rigorous nomination and application process. Elish-Piper, who has led the College of Education since July 2016 after serving one year as acting dean, is a member of the fellowship’s third cohort.

Deans for Impact is a national nonprofit organization that empowers, supports and advocates on behalf of leaders at all levels of educator preparation who are committed to transforming the field and elevating the teaching profession. Founded in 2015, the organization is committed to reflecting the broad diversity of programs preparing new educators in this country – something today’s announcement reinforces.

Pomp and circumstance: NIU marks spring commencement

commencement-spring-18-1NIU College of Education graduates stepped in the spotlight over the weekend during the spring commencement ceremonies.

Acting NIU President Lisa Freeman told the audience at the May 12 undergraduate ceremony about Elizabeth Hipskind, who earned a bachelor’s degree in Special Education.

During the May 11 Graduate School ceremony, Freeman spoke about Rachel Morrison, who earned a master’s degree in Early Childhood Education.

Here are President Freeman’s comments.

Elizabeth Hipskind

October 24, 2017: a date Elizabeth Hipskind will never forget.

Elizabeth Hipskind

Elizabeth Hipskind

She was in Rockford, completing a clinical in a secondary classroom of students with low-functioning autism. During an art activity, Elizabeth briefly turned her back on a 17-year-old girl.

It was then that she felt the bite, teeth piercing her right arm. Elizabeth instinctively tried to pull away, allowing the girl’s bite to drag four inches higher above the elbow.

NIU Health Services prescribed antibiotics to treat the infection and physical therapy for loss of mobility.

During two months of PT, with relentless fever and limited use of her dominant hand, she overcame academic challenges through speech-recognition software and understanding faculty.

And talk about resilient! During this difficult period, Elizabeth never missed one class, kept a 4.0 grade point average, remained active in extracurriculars and maintained a positive attitude about everything.

Most importantly, she realized something amazing: Classrooms like that one in Rockford are where she truly belongs, not those that match her original goal of K-2 students with mild disabilities. Rockford fueled her purpose and passion for special education, the only career she’s ever wanted.

Elizabeth comes from Oklahoma. A young woman of deep faith, she grew up teaching Sunday School. Five years ago, she connected with a second-grader with autism and found her future.

She combined 19 hours of Advanced Placement credit with six consecutive semesters of heavy course loads to graduate in three years.

It’s hard to believe now, but Elizabeth almost returned home after her freshman year. I’m happy she stayed.

Here she’s tapped great opportunities. Teaching in Houston! Mentoring adult performers with special needs on the Penguin Players stage!

She’s also turned curiosity into research, including an 11,000-word paper on how college students with mental illness respond to characters in film with corresponding diagnoses.

I’m thrilled that her parents, Stefan and Stephanie, and other loved ones have made the 670-mile trip to see her dream come true. Congratulations, Elizabeth!


Rachel Morrison

Rachel Morrison wears many hats. She’s a mother of two, a military spouse, a preschool teacher and today, a Huskie graduate.

Rachel Morrison

Rachel Morrison

The road to earning her master’s degree in early childhood education began three years ago when she and her family moved to DeKalb from the Fort Stewart in Georgia.

“Coming here, and having the kids in school full time, I just really wanted to do something for myself,” Rachel said. “I wasn’t sure if I could balance everything but I wanted to give it a try.”

And she did.

In 2015, Rachel became a full-time student at NIU, and in 2016, she began taking classes in the evening while working part-time as a preschool teacher in DeKalb. Then in 2017, her husband, Jay, a colonel in the United States Army, was deployed to Kuwait. That didn’t deter Rachel from pursuing her master’s degree.

“I would put in a full day of work, go to class, come home and put my kids to bed. Then I’d start my homework,” Rachel said. “Finding a balance with all the different roles I played was a challenge.”

But Rachel proved she was up for the challenge. While earning her master’s degree and raising her two boys, she has maintained an impressive 4.0 grade point average.

She said she is grateful for the support she received at NIU, especially from Professor Myoungwhon Jung. “I took two of his classes and he has been my supervising teacher through all of my student teaching,” Rachel said. “He really went out of his way to help me, and I know he gives a lot of his own time on weekends and evenings to help his students.”

Col. Jay Morrison said this about his wife via email from Kuwait. “Too often people confuse me as a hero because of the uniform I wear,” he said. “When I am asked who my hero is, it is Rachel.”

Her two sons, ages 7 and 11, share the sentiment. “They would tell me that I was doing a great job and that they were proud of me,” Rachel said.

Rachel said she is proud of herself too, and is looking forward to starting the next chapter of her life. Her husband finishes his tour in July and the family will be moving to a military base outside of Tacoma, Washington, in August. “My goal is to teach full time there,” Rachel said. “And I am really looking forward to spending more time with my kids and having my husband back.”

Our hats are off to Rachel. You worked hard and deserve to be recognized for your efforts.

Please enjoy this photo gallery from Spring 2018 commencement!

Future elementary teachers find good ideas within interventions

Courtney Rieb explains her project during the Student Research Symposium.

Courtney Rieb explains her project
during the Student Research Symposium.

Courtney Rieb could not help but notice the boy.

“He was frequently off-task,” says Rieb, a junior Elementary Education major from Antioch. “He was trying to talk to his friends, or taking laps around the classroom. I identified him as needing some help.”

The first-grader, a student in the classroom where Rieb completed a clinical placement during her first professional seminar, inspired Rieb to develop and deliver an intervention.

And she had help – from the young boy himself.

“I wanted to help him self-manage his behavior. I worked with him to come up with some goals for what it would look like for him to be on task, to keep his ‘eyes on the prize.’ Classroom rules. Doing homework. Being a model for his peers,” she says.

“We put that on a chart,” she adds, “and we used that along with a timer to check his behavior every time the timer would go off, which was every minute on the minute for 10 minutes.”

Rieb turned her work with the boy into a research project, one she shared not only at the April 18 Undergraduate Research and Artistry Day but at the College of Education’s Student Research Symposium two days later.

Eight students joined her in poster presentations.

Annie Malecki and Bill Pitney

Annie Malecki and Bill Pitney

Annie Malecki, of the Department of Kinesiology and Physical Education (KNPE), took the undergraduate award for Outstanding Poster Presentation. Sharif Shahadat, of the Department of Educational Technology, Research and Assessment (ETRA), won the graduate-level award.

Other presenters included Dalal Alfageth, Kylie Cousins, Rania Kokandy, Alexandria Patinka, Addison Pond, Kathryn E. Rupp (a master’s student from the NIU Department of Psychology) and Steven Smart.

Graduate students Joshua Pak and Wilson Hernandez Parraci, from KNPE and ETRA respectively, gave table talks.

Bill Pitney, associate dean for Research, Resources and Innovation, calls this year’s symposium “an excellent display of what is possible in every academic program.”

“Students presented studies from didactic and clinical classes as well as extracurricular engagement. I was very proud to see the expertise and effort that went into their work,” Pitney says.

“Engaging students in the process of research builds their capacity to think critically and creatively. Having them disseminate the findings of a study enhances their ability to communicate,” he adds. “These skills will transfer into their professional lives and set them apart from other graduates.”

For Rieb and Patinka, a junior Elementary Education major from St. Charles, their research projects showed what “their passion to better understand kids with disabilities who will likely be in their general education classrooms in the future.”

Natalie Andzik presents at the Student Research Sypoisum.

Natalie Andzik discusses “Research to Practice”
at the Student Research Symposium.

So says Natalie Andzik, an assistant professor in the Department of Special and Early Education.

“It was very rewarding for me to see pre-service, general education teachers take such an interest in developing interventions for students with disabilities in their clinical placements,” Andzik says.

“By having them complete a case study research project, these ladies not only were able to experience the rewards of putting an individualized intervention into place for one of their students,” she adds, “but they also got to go through the entire research process from idea, to method development, to implementation, through presentation and, hopefully, publication.”

Patinka adapted a kinesthetic intervention for a first-grade girl struggling with “sight words” – high-frequency words that young readers should recognize without sounding out or decoding.

“I looked at baseline data from the district’s test for sight words; there are 68 words, and first-graders are supposed to get 68 out of 68,” she says.

Unfortunately, the best Patinka’s student could achieve was nine of 68 – a 13 percent success rate. “There was definitely a need there,” she says.

The intervention involved a tiny sandbox that Patinka’s cooperating teacher had but rarely used because of the mess factor. Patinka asked her student to write the sight words in the sand, either with her finger or with a stylus.

“It was something very engaging and something she really enjoyed doing, which I think is really crucial in student learning,” she says. “I would work with her a few times each week. We would work together for about 15 minutes and cover 10 to 15 words that we would really focus on. I would read them, spell them with her, have her write them for me, sound them out, read them back to me.”

Sharif Shahadat and Bill Pitney

Sharif Shahadat and Bill Pitney

Eventually, she scored a 62 on the sight word test – an impressive 91 percent that took her from far below the class average to above it.

And while the child drew words, Patinka drew conclusions.

“I learned that kinesthetic learning can be a great tool for sight word recognition. I’m a huge advocate for kinesthetic learning in general because humans were born to move. That’s how we’re built,” she says. “This really captivated my student’s interest. Her attitude did a 180. She loved the sand and really looked forward to it, and I think that having a student engaged in something they’re really looking forward to is the best education possible.”

Rieb also recorded a positive turnaround in her student as he checked his attention levels at the direction of the timer.

To start the process, Rieb taught the boy how to use the timer as well as the procedure.

Whenever the timer sounded, he was to document whether he was on task with a smiley face. His data sheet also contained another table where he would report whether his self-accounts were honest ones.

Dalal Alfageh explains her work to Zach Wahl-Alexander.

Dalal Alfageh explains her work to Zach Wahl-Alexander.

She also provided incentives for good behavior, including stickers and a bouncy ball, and soon stepped away to allow him to perform the tasks on his own.

“The goal was to get intrinsic motivation after we had used the little prizes as an extrinsic motivator,” Rieb says. “The intervention worked very well. In the data I collected before the intervention was implemented, I saw that he was on task zero percent of the time. He eventually reached 100 percent of the time.”

His classroom teacher “was very happy,” she adds. “She saw how it greatly impacted his behavior and his academic performance.”

Naturally, Rieb also grew from the interaction.

“I learned how to just make a connection with a student and to work one-on-one with him,” she says. “I learned how design and implement interventions. It’s extremely important to have their needs and interests in mind, and you can’t just impose an intervention on them. They have to be invested in making the change.”

Sri Lankan visitors experience ways to instill social, personal responsibility through sport

sri-2Sport is spoken the world around.

That certainly proved true last month in the NIU Department of Kinesiology and Physical Education, where 25 young visitors from Sri Lanka and the Maldives learned about boxing from, and taught cricket to, students from DeKalb’s Clinton Rosette Middle School.

It was equally apparent during a get-together with the NIU Archery Club. Or on a guided tour of NIU Intercollegiate Athletics facilities. Or when bowling with NIU Honors Program students at the Huskies Den. Or while cheering the NIU Huskie Softball team over Western Michigan.

Yet those examples of sport’s borderless reach merely laid a strong foundation for the real purpose of the ENVEST (Empowering New Voices through Education and Sport Training) Sri Lanka program: Teaching Personal and Social Responsibility (TPSR) through sports.

Everyone chosen for ENVEST already had demonstrated youth leadership ability or was identified as having the aptitude for such roles, NIU Presidential Engagement Professor Paul Wright said.

“We wanted to cultivate and nurture that potential,” said Wright, the EC Lane and MN Zimmerman Endowed Professor in Kinesiology and Physical Education. “We wanted to set a tone that everyone in the room had expertise to share.”

For Wright and three of his KNPE colleagues – Jenn Jacobs, Steve Howell and Jim Ressler – the training program offered the perfect opportunity to spread the TPSR model and to build on the experience gained through the Belizean Youth Sport Coalition project they operated from 2013 to 2016.

“One of the most valuable tools we can give to these participants is to use sports as a vehicle for social change and social good,” said Howell, an associate professor of Sport Management who greeted the travelers at O’Hare. “Sport is a two-pronged entity where you work competitively but you also work cooperatively. That’s a real powerful tool.”


Paul Wright takes a selfie with his new Sri Lankan friends.

NIU’s visitors arrived Sunday, April 22, as part of a series of sports diplomacy missions aimed at ways sport can create social change.

Consisting of four separate cultural exchanges with countries in South and Central Asia, including Sri Lanka, the program is funded by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs through its Sports Diplomacy Division.

Virginia Commonwealth University’s Center for Sport Leadership, which received the federal grant, selected NIU to coordinate the exchange with Sri Lanka.

Almost everything on the week’s busy and comprehensive schedule, which included a day visiting a high school in Aurora, broadened their perspectives of TPSR and discussions of how bring that into actual teaching.

Workshops were taught on “Youth Development and Teaching Life Skills,” “Sport Skill Instruction/Basic Pedagogy,” “Fundamental Sport Skills-Softball,” “Sport for Diplomacy,” “Introduction to TPSR Model and Coaching Strategies,” “Sport Leadership” and “Personal and Social Change through Sport.”

Friday brought hands-on experiences for the Sri Lankans to lead several stations of sport programming for Clinton Rosette students who spent the day inside and outside Anderson Hall.


Jenn Jacobs admires the native clothing.

Greg Greenhalgh, director of Student Services and Outreach for the Center for Sport Leadership, was impressed by what he saw in DeKalb. “They’re doing such a great job with making the Sri Lankans feel welcome,” he said.

Greenhalgh joined the group in an auxiliary gym at Clinton Rosette to watch four 12- and 13-year-old girls teach the basics of boxing to the international visitors, who ranged in age from 16 to 22.

Lessons began with proper stretching and other warm-up exercises before turning to punching, bobbing, weaving and more.

Afterward, Jacobs (who leads the after-school Girls Boxing Club) and her quartet of pre-teens spoke about the additional benefits of the program.

Being girls-only, the club allows for questions about life, including positive body image and body empowerment for females. Goals are set at the outset of each session; one girl is chosen at the end to lead the team huddle in recognition of having best exemplified the goal.

“What has been most inspirational for me so far is watching not only what the faculty do but what the students do,” Greenhalgh said. “They’re giving the Sri Lankans an opportunity to see how they could successfully do this when they go home to Sri Lanka.”

“We didn’t want to just talk about youth leadership,” Wright confirmed. “We wanted them to see what it looks like.”


Jacobs, whose expertise is sport and exercise psychology, believes that the Sri Lankans saw “nothing mind-blowing” or unknown to them – but that they began to glimpse the possibilities of the Teaching Personal and Social Responsibility model and how they might implement it.

“We gave them a good space to be intentional and to reflect on what kind of changes could be made,” Jacobs said.

In their many “So What? Action Planning” discussions, the young Sri Lankans spoke of pollution, government corruption and even disability: Sri Lanka is only nine years removed from a quarter-century civil war. Many people continue to suffer from physical and psychological wounds amid recent cultural reconciliation and exchange.

Accordingly, some of the visitors told the NIU professors about their desire to deliver accommodated sport and recreation for people with disabilities. “They aren’t getting any kind of support,” Wright said. “How can they do a better job of developing and providing that service?”

sri-19Meanwhile, two Sri Lankan YMCAs were represented in the ENVEST delegation but those people had never spoken to each other. “That was a big win for them,” Jacobs said. “They’re hours away (from each other), but still believe in the same things.”

NIU’s professors will not know how much of an impact they’ve made until they visit Sri Lanka in August, but Wright already has a guess of one thing that will blossom: adapted sport.

“Play and recreation are such important parts of feeling whole and recovering from trauma. That’s massive,” he said. “They have many people missing limbs, with few services or activities available to them. Activity is good for the mind, body and spirit.”

The KNPE team also hope to see a greater sense of unity among people who spent much of the last 35 years at war.

“Sport is that common language,” said Ressler, who calls the Sri Lankan visitors “change agents” and the “next group of leaders” who validate the importance of the ENVEST project: “It affirmed to me that casting to the young group is the right thing to do.”

Ressler, an expert in Physical Education pedagogy, believes that the week was a great success as well as a good example of KNPE teamwork.

He and the others held several meetings to plan for the week and also spoke to some Sri Lankan students at NIU who served as cultural advisers on such topics as social norms and dietary preferences.

sri-15“What I do appreciate from this group is how thoughtful we have been in making sure the schedule was appropriate from not only a content perspective but also a cultural perspective,” Ressler said. “I was very proud to be a part of it.”

“We’ve got a great team in place,” Howell added. “We work really well together, and everyone plays a key role in the program and its delivery.”

Jacobs found a different takeaway: “It reminded me that this isn’t just a job,” she said. “We’re building friendships, and we’re building international relationships.”

All of that confirms the power of TPSR, said Wright, “a go-to scholar” on the model.

“It’s a balance of theory and practice; we believe that it can really make a difference in communities, in people’s lives,” he said. “It’s a great convergence of things: intellectually interesting topics that do make a difference in the real world. The interest and relevance of this work is skyrocketing.”

Chinese education leaders visit to glimpse trends, best practices


Portia Downey and DeLandon Mason

When DeLandon Mason lifted a brass trumpet to his lips May 1 in a classroom of the Learning Center, the notes he blew were somewhat reminiscent of the beginning of a horse race.

His audience – a delegation of secondary school principals, owners and founders from China – smiled and clapped.

Mason, a graduate student in the NIU College of Education’s MAT program, then produced a trumpet made of garden hose, duct tape and a plastic funnel. As he began to play, eyes brightened. Grins widened.

Applause this time came not from appreciation but amazement and awe for the student of Portia Downey, the college’s professional development coordinator who invited Mason to co-teach “Framework for Inquiry-Based Instruction” with her that morning.

“The buzzing takes practice, and it seems silly,” he told the group later amid honks on plastic mouthpieces, “but the children will learn.”

So will the adults.

Moments later, the 15 visitors began to fabricate their own trumpets from the provided supplies and to attempt making music. Some fruitlessly filled their instruments with air – the proper technique is not blowing into, but vibrating lips against, the mouthpiece – while others caught on and conjured sounds of all sorts.

chinese-7Downey and Mason already had taught the group how to construct cell phone speakers from cardboard tubes, plastic cups and duct tape, and later would make soundwaves visible by sprinkling salt or sugar onto plastic wrap stretched over the speakers.

“That’s how your eardrum works!” Downey told her students for the hour.

It was a fun way to start a day of presentations on the latest and best practices in teaching and learning, particularly in science methods, as well as U.S. trends in education.

Other presenters included Jodi Lampi, assistant professor in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction, who spoke on “Infusing Disciplinary Literacy into Content Area Courses.”

Jim Surber, clinical assistant professor in the Department of Leadership, Educational Psychology and Foundations, opened the afternoon with “Educational Leadership in Illinois.” Fatih Demir, assistant professor in the Department of Educational Technology, Research and Assessment, closed the day with “Emerging Technologies for UX Design and Research.”

“The Chinese people believe so much in education and in moving their children ahead,” says Terry Borg, director of the college’s Office of External and Global Programs. “They’re focused on the newest innovations in learning, and they want their children to be subject to those newest innovations. This is one way for them to get a step ahead.”

chinese-1NIU’s visitors are currently the guests of St. Bede Academy, which regularly hosts delegations from China as a part of its global collaboration. The Catholic high school in Peru, Ill., enrolls about 50 boarder students from China each year; it also maintains a sister relationship with Kinglee High School in Zhengzhou, China.

Creating a pipeline of students from China into the United States, and Illinois in particular, is advantageous to both sides of the partnership. It also boosts NIU, Borg says.

“St. Bede’s wants an association with a university in the region, and we have seen definite benefits to being a part of this,” Borg says.

“The Chinese education leaders are not only checking out schools in the United States for their students but are also interested in professional development for their teachers,” he adds. “They want summer programs for their teachers to come to the U.S. They requested programs focused on science education, and we wanted to demonstrate that we have a strong faculty presence in science learning.”

Lampi opened her presentation with a picture of an apple, prompting the visitors to ask questions about the fruit.

chinese-6After her discussion of the disciplinary literacy and the characteristics of text in English, history and science, she challenged them to describe how their thinking had changed about the apple through that exploration.

“It was just amazing to hear how those different perspectives provided different questions,” Borg says, “and how people in those specific disciplines think – to have that set of glasses on.”

Surber spoke of U.S. trends in school leadership, telling the group that administrators here are educational leaders in addition to managers. Demir demonstrated the latest in educational technology.

“They were excited about each of the areas,” Borg says. “Our relationship will continue, and they will be sending us proposals forthcoming. They clearly identified NIU as being a quality place for students to learn.”


Self-advocacy: SEED professor partners with alumna to pilot student-driven transition plans

Sarah Johnston-Rodriguez

Sarah Johnston-Rodriguez

Choosing a path for after high school is rarely easy for any young adult, and that naturally includes those teens with special needs.

But for students with special needs at Hononegah High School in Rockton, Ill., those roads to “transition” are becoming clearer.

It’s thanks to a cutting-edge program researched and designed by NIU Department of Special and Early Education Professor Sarah Johnston-Rodriguez and implemented on the ground by NIU alum Angela Henbest, a Special Education teacher at Hononegah.

“Anyone who knows adolescents knows that they have to feel ownership for things to mean anything to them. To be motivated, it has to come from within,” Johnston-Rodriguez says. “Adolescent development is all about themselves. You can’t write goals for them. They have to be their goals. A teacher facilitates this, but the students discover on their own.”

Transition is a federally mandated process, Johnston-Rodriguez adds, and the language of the legislation encourages student-driven planning.

“Yet we weren’t doing that out in the field,” she says. “Our national stats on post-grad outcomes were terrible, especially for this particular group of students with emotional disabilities, and to me this seemed like a logical thing: Let this be theirs. Let this be more person-centered.”

NIU is one of only a few colleges or universities in Illinois that offers a course dedicated to transition, and Johnston-Rodriguez is collaborating nationally on her research on putting students in the driver’s seat.

Running a pilot of Project SEEC (Students Engaged in Exploring Careers) with Henbest and her students has given the NIU professor the proof that it works – and that it can prevent some students with special needs from “falling through the cracks.”

Angela Henbest

Angela Henbest

Meanwhile, when Henbest brings her students to the DeKalb campus to show their PowerPoint presentations to current NIU students in the Special Education major, it propagates Johnston-Rodriguez’s model into countless other school districts.

“Her students have shown an incredible turnaround,” Johnston-Rodriguez says of Henbest and Hononegah. “They’ve got these incredible career plans about going on to a job or going on to college. The cool thing is that they start understanding why school matters because now they’ve got goals.”

What they discover about themselves includes self-advocacy, self-determination, self-reliance and problem-solving abilities.

“Other teachers are doing this, but I’m the doing the most with it,” says Henbest, who holds a bachelor’s degree (LBS) and master’s degree in Reading from the NIU College of Education.

All of her students have Individualized Education Plans, most for learning disabilities or “Other Health Impairment,” such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder or anxiety.

She reconnected with Johnson-Rodriguez four years ago when she served as a cooperating teacher for a Special Education major from NIU. “Sarah got ahold of me that following summer to see if I would do the pilot,” Henbest says. “We had been struggling with how we did transition with our students.”

Beginning with her then-sophomores – they now are seniors about to graduate – Henbest guided the teens through the project, which includes a brief instruction, surveys of career explorations to discover or determine two areas of interest and creation of the PowerPoints.


Angela Henbest and her Hononegah High School students visit NIU.


“They’re basically telling their story – who they are, what their interests are, how school is for them, what’s easy, what’s hard, where they need help, where that difficulty lies for them with their disability,” she says. “The best part is that it gets the kids actually talking to their parents about it. It gets them excited about what they’re going to do when they leave Hononegah.”

Questions are involved as well. Who offers the college program I want? How do I get there? What grades do I need?

“What we’ve embedded involves a great deal of metacognition – as in, ‘Now I’ve got to sit down and summarize this information, and think about what my goals are. Is Option A better than Option B?’ ” Johnston-Rodriguez says.

“We’re leading them through this process of metacognition where before, they might have just said, ‘Oh, I don’t know.’ It has become a very connected, fluid process for students, and now they have a map,” she adds. “Their investment in it, their ownership of it, even their maturity – it just blows me away, and I’ve been very close to it.”

hononegah-logoHononegah teachers also are thrilled with the initial results, Henbest says.

“I’m really excited about that first group. We have a lot more who have already applied to college or have been accepted to college or trade programs,” she says. “In previous years, we’ve not had that many kids that focused and decided on what they’re doing.”

“She’s gone from having kids who knew nothing about what they wanted to do – whether they’d stay in school – to having kids who are already enrolled in college. One young woman was accepted by five colleges,” Johnston-Rodriguez says. “It’s pretty remarkable to see.”

Now in its third year, the project has grown to encompass all four grades of Hononegah students, although most of the work takes place during the sophomore year.

Freshmen, juniors and seniors all have checklists, either to start thinking about transition, to keep them on track or to help them adjust should their career interests change after sophomore year. The upperclassmen also hang onto and revisit the portfolios they create.

During their sophomore-year visit to NIU, the teens answer questions from the NIU students about their PowerPoints and participate in group activities with the licensure-candidates where they talk about how the process has empowered them and how teachers can help.

“Some share their own artwork or photography. They talk about where they’re going, and how they’re going to get there,” Johnston-Rodriguez says. “They also work with our NIU students on the process of self-determination, and that’s the underlying piece that’s really critical to us.”

Many have NIU in their sights, she adds, while others are looking toward Rock Valley College.

campusTouring the DeKalb campus after their visit to Gabel Hall provides inspiration for what’s possible – and what it will take to blossom in college.

“It takes them longer to learn,” Henbest says, “and they understand that. They know that they need to figure out their best process or avenue. It’s not that they can’t go to college, but college, for them, is going to look different. They’re going to have to reach out for resources that maybe other students are not going to need.”

NIU students, on the other hand, enjoy a close-up glimpse of a program that works.

“All of the students in this seminar have implemented a similar process in their clinicals. Now they’re seeing living proof – longitudinally, two and three years out – what the impact was on students. They get to interact with them, get engaged with the hands-on aspect of self-determination in students and work hands with the students,” Johnston-Rodriguez says.

“My students are pretty amazed at how articulate the high school students are. Some of them would never know that these were students who were struggling before,” she adds. “They’re also pretty amazed at how clear their goals are, how explicit their plans are and what strong self-advocates they are in their determination to reach these goals.”

Johnston-Rodriguez is equally impressed by the Hononegah sophomores. “One guy wants to be a film director,” she says, “and after you talk to him for 10 minutes, you think he will be.”

More great impressions are coming.

The professor and the alumna conducted an all-day training in Project SEEC last October, something that takes their collaboration to a higher level.

“Angela has been really dedicated to this, and she’s doing an outstanding job. She wanted to make some changes, do some innovative things – and she has done a great job of supporting the students through that. Her students all want to go to college,” Johnston-Rodriguez says.

“Our partnership has worked so well,” she adds. “It’s a real example of taking the Ivory Tower and putting it out into practice and then having it come back full-circle.”

Service-Learning Faculty Fellow Carrie Kortegast will visit Mexico to explore site for Summer 2019

Carrie Kortegast

Carrie Kortegast

Carrie Kortegast will travel to Mexico this July to explore the “classroom” for next summer’s study abroad and service learning course for Adult and Higher Education graduate students.

The assistant professor in the Department of Counseling, Adult and Higher Education is nearing the halfway point of her term as a Service-Learning Faculty Fellow, a program of the NIU Office of Student Engagement and Experiential Learning.

Awarded last September, the fellowship is enabling Kortegast to create a new service-learning course in Adult and Higher Education that includes an international opportunity at Bucerias, Mexico-based Human Connections.

Kortegast chose to work with Human Connections because of its commitment to “socially conscious” international education experiences.

Students who enroll in her new course will learn how to create and facilitate their own service-learning and study abroad experiences for future generations of students, she adds.

“Higher education administrators can facilitate engaged learning opportunities such as Study Abroad and Alternative Spring Break that are more socially conscious,” Kortegast says.

“We take a philosophical approach to volunteerism and tourism, approaching them in a way that is sustainable, ethical and socially just, not just taking knowledge but honoring the communities in a way that’s not exploitative of the community’s knowledge.”

human-connectionsRenique Kersh, associate vice provost for Engaged Learning, told Kortegast about Human Connections and put her in touch with Executive Director Elly Rorher. NIU enjoys a long association with Human Connections through Trustee Dennis Barsema, who has taken students there.

Located near Puerto Vallarta, the nonprofit pairs its partners – artisans, tradespeople and organizations on Mexico’s Pacific coast – with travelers and students to ignite action toward lasting social change. Providing these platform to share their culture is meant to empower communities while fostering conversations to shift perspectives and grow understanding.

Kortegast has been preparing for this summer’s exploratory trip, and developing next summer’s course, through training and helpful conversations with OSEEL staff and other Service-Learning Faculty Fellows.

“I’ve been meeting with two other faculty members – Alicia Schatteman and Mylan Engel – because this has been a planning year for me,” Kortegast says. “Alicia and Mylan have already done their courses, so they’re asking some good questions and providing feedback to me as I plan my course.”

Michaela Holtz, associate director and coordinator for Community Engagement at OSEEL, also has worked with Kortegast to enhance the professor’s understanding of service-learning and how to enhance it.

OSEEL expects that the new course will become an ongoing, regular offering, something that CAHE Chair Suzanne Degges-White is charged with maintaining.

kortegast-carrie-2Kortegast is excited to offer a service-learning course to graduate students; most similar courses dwell in the undergraduate realm.

“There are more constraints on working professionals and their ability to engage in service-learning than there are with undergrad, so I’m learning how to make this a robust, meaningful experience that is also doable,” she says. “Also, many of our graduate students did not have the opportunity to go abroad as undergraduates.”

NIU Service-Learning Faculty Fellows receive $2,500: $1,500 in Year One; $1,000 in Year Two. Kortegast is using the $1,500 to fund her travel to Mexico this summer and plans to put the second-year dollars toward promoting her work at academic conferences.

She encourages other NIU professors to apply.

“People should do this,” she says. “It provides incentives to do engaged learning and service, and to incorporate it into our courses. It also provides not only social support in how to do it but also some financial resources to make it possible.”

Career Planning 211 celebrates 35 years of life skills enrichment for undergrads, grad instructors

Melissa Fickling

Melissa Fickling

Thirty-five years after Carole W. Minor brought the Career Planning 211 course to the NIU College of Education, it continues to thrive.

Undergraduates of any major or college are welcome to take 211, where freshmen and sophomores explore careers and juniors and seniors focus on job skills.

Some are still pondering what to do. Some are in the process of changing majors. Some don’t know what jobs they can acquire with their major. All are learning who they are, what strengths they bring to the table and where they can best thrive, grow and “just be themselves.”

While seven sections of the course were available this spring, the incredible benefits of 211 were enjoyed equally by seven graduate students in the Department of Counseling, Adult and Higher Education (CAHE).

“Our 211 program provides career development and planning content to undergrads,” Chair Suzanne Degges-White says, “while being taught by master’s-level students in the Counselor Education program, providing them with their own parallel career development opportunities as they grow their skills at classroom management, helping skills and professional depth.”

Melissa Fickling, an assistant professor in CAHE, currently oversees the program that she calls “a rare opportunity” for future counselors.

“It was an amazing thing to be handed this structure. It kind of blew my mind. I know I would have done it as a counseling student, and I think everybody should,” says Fickling, who joined NIU last fall.

career-options“Career counseling is a huge part of the counseling profession’s history for the past 100 years. A lot of our students are school counseling students, going into schools where career counseling is really valued,” she adds. “Obviously, students need career readiness. They’re going to be looking for jobs. They’re going to be contributing to the economy.”

Graduate students pursuing any specialization of counseling, including clinical mental health counseling, are strongly encouraged to teach 211. CAHE offers graduate assistantship positions to those selected to teach.

“We see them grow so much through this teaching. They start off so nervous – it takes a lot of guts – but the growth curve we see is huge. They start walking differently. They have an appreciation for what means to educate,” she says.

“In the middle of the teaching semester, they’re wondering, ‘Why did I do this to myself? It was totally voluntary!’ ” she adds. “By the end of the semester, they are very glad that they did it. Unanimously, that is what they say – and we’ve seen our master’s students get job offers and opportunities from their work in 211. Employers love that our students have this experience.”

Fickling provides the teacher-training, which began Monday for this fall’s 13 sections.

The half-day session included requisite paperwork, a wide-ranging discussion about the course itself and distribution of the textbook and a syllabus template. Students develop their own syllabi, which Fickling reviews a few times before the semester begins.

In the week before fall semester classes begin, Fickling will hold a daylong workshop with the students that includes guest speakers, practice in teaching and advice on how to work with students with special needs.

“Throughout the semester, the instructors get a ton of support from me. We meet every week as a group to process what’s going on in the classroom, to just troubleshoot or to talk about issues that come up. We do that together,” she says. “I also observe them in the classroom and give them feedback. I’m just kind of on-call as needed.”

Carole W. Minor

Carole W. Minor

Meanwhile, she adds, the instructors build camaraderie online through a Google Drive, a private Facebook group and group texts.

“Yes, you’re going to be your own instructor. Yes, it’s your own course,” Fickling says. “But you’re going to get a lot of support.”

A few of the instructors are nurturing a curiosity, she adds. “Some have said, ‘I think I want to teach in the future,’ ” she says. “This is an option to test the waters in a very safe and supportive way.”

Fickling has big plans for 211 herself.

“Anyone who wants to teach should be able to teach, and anyone who wants to take it should be able to take it. We’ve had to turn away undergraduates,” she says. “I want it to grow. I want to do research with it. I would love to explore offering it online or hybrid. If we could reach more people, that’s what I want to do.”

One of those students might become a college professor someday, she adds.

“I was an undecided undergraduate and a first-generation college student. I had no idea what college was about,” Fickling says. “As I got exposed to career development, I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, I want to know more about this!’ ”

And the award goes to …

Congratulations to these members of the College of Education family!

Annie Malecki

Annie Malecki

Annie Malecki, a Physical Education major, was recognized as a SHAPE America Major of the Year with about 80 other students from Physical Education Teacher Education programs across the country.

She plans to teach physical education with an emphasis on wellness and whole body fitness. Her focus is on yoga, Pilates and dance.

During the SHAPE America national convention in Nashville, Malecki also was awarded the SHAPE America Ruth Abernathy Presidential Scholarship.

The honor is given to a SHAPE member with a GPA of 3.5 to 4.0, scholastic proficiency, good leadership skills, professional service and good character. She receives a scholarship of $1,250 and a three year membership to SHAPE.

Malecki, a senior, will student-teach this fall. She already is a certified Zumba instructor.

* * *

Kristina L. Wilkerson

Kristina L. Wilkerson

Kristina L. Wilkerson, a doctoral student in the Counselor Education and Supervision program, has been named a Fellow of the National Board for Certified Counselors Minority Fellowship Program of the NBCC Foundation, an affiliate of the National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC).

As an NBCC MFP Fellow, Wilkerson will receive funding and training to support her education and facilitate her service to underserved minority populations.

The fellowship also will assist her in becoming more involved in her research area through direct service, in receiving mentorship in her clinical and academic roles and in completing her doctorate degree. She is currently interested in researching the relationship between counselor education, supervision and multicultural counseling competency in novice counselors.

Wilerson is a Licensed Professional Counselor who provides individual and family counseling to diverse clientele. She also is an adjunct faculty member at National Louis University, where she provides counselor education in subjects such as counseling theory, counseling skills, psychological assessment and multicultural counseling.

She is also a graduate assistant in the NIU Office of the Ombudsperson, where one of her roles is to serve undergraduate and graduate students in developing skills to advocate for themselves when experiencing racial, gender or sexual orientation harassment or discrimination.

* * *

Julie Hapeman

Julie Hapeman

Julie Hapeman, a graduate student in the Department of Special and Early Education’s Project VITALL master’s degree program, has received the 2018 Community Giving Award from the Wisconsin Council of the Blind & Visually Impaired.

The council’s annual awards celebrate individuals and organizations who have made significant contributions to promote the dignity and empowerment of people who are blind and visually impaired.

Hapeman was nominated by the council’s fund development committee for her dedication to community education and the empowerment of young people through the annual White Cane Day Celebration as well as her generous gifts to the White Cane Fund.

She also is a 1992 alumna of the NIU College of Education, holding a B.S.Ed. in Special Education with a Visual Impairments emphasis.

* * *

The NIU Graduate School honored recipients of the Outstanding Graduate Student Awards and the Diversifying Higher Education Faculty in Illinois (DFI) Fellowship during an April 24 reception.

Outstanding Graduate Student Awards

  • Michael Belbis – Kinesiology and Physical Education
  • Elbia Del Llano – Counseling, Adult and Higher Education
  • Emmanuel C. Esperanza Jr. – Counseling, Adult and Higher Education
  • Kendra Nenia – Special and Early Education
  • Addison Pond – Kinesiology and Physical Education
  • Brittany Torres – Counseling, Adult and Higher Education
  • Suzy Wise – Counseling, Adult and Higher Education

Diversifying Higher Education Faculty in Illinois (DFI) Fellowship

  • Brigitte Bingham – Educational Technology, Research and Assessment
  • Shatoya Black – Counseling, Adult and Higher Education
  • Naina Richards – Counseling, Adult and Higher Education
  • Stephen Samuels – Counseling, Adult and Higher Education
  • Konya Sledge – Counseling, Adult and Higher Education

* * *

Jason Dietz, Sherri Lamerand and Kim Haas

Jason Dietz, Sherri Lamerand and Kim Haas

Jason Dietz, principal of Walter R. Sundling Junior High School in Palatine, was named the 2018 Illinois PTA Outstanding Principal of the Year.

Dietz, pictured at left with Sherri Lamerand (Illinois PTA Volunteer of the Year) and Kim Haas (Illinois PTA Teacher of the Year), is a doctoral student in the Hoffman Estates cohort of the Ed.S./Superintendent Preparation Program.

The three all represent Community Consolidated School District 15, which serves all or part of seven northwest suburban communities.

Winners of Illinois PTA awards exhibit excellence in their ability to connect with students, families and their school communities. The awards were presented earlier this month at the 116th Illinois PTA convention, held at NIU-Naperville.

* * *

Scott Wickman

Scott Wickman (right) celebrates his award with Martina Moore, president of the Association of Humanistic Counseling.

Several faculty and students from the Department of Counseling, Adult and Higher Education traveled to the American Counseling Association conference in Atlanta.

Professor Scott Wickman was awarded the Humanistic Educator/Supervisor of the Year award. Chair Suzanne Degges-White received the AADA Presidential Service Award.

Counseling faculty and students delivered many presentations:

Adam Carter and Ashley S. Roberts (M.S. student in Counseling)

  • Using Grounded Theory to Understand Grief Experiences of Preschool Aged Children

Melissa Fickling

  • Work, Meaning and Purpose in Relapse Prevention: A Theoretical Integration
  • Leading the Way in Internationalization: Contributions of Professional Counseling Organizations
  • Telling Our Story: Integrating Humanism, Career and Social Justice

Kimberly Hart

  • Color Conscious Multicultural Mindfulness: A Meaningful Training Experience
  • Persons of African Descent Interpersonal Relationship and Community Violence

Dana Isawi

  • Culture and Discipline: Helping Parents Learn to Set Limits

Suzanne Degges-White

  • Publishing in Refereed Journals: Suggestions from the ACA Council of Editors
  • What do Women Want Today? Helping Women Clients Reach their Goals

* * *


The upcoming retirement of Barb Andree was acknowleged during the Celebration of Excellence.

The upcoming retirement of Barb Andree,
office manager for the associate dean,
also was acknowledged by the deans
during the May 4 Celebration of Excellence.

Winners of the College of Education Awards were recognized May 4 during the Celebration of Excellence.

  • Excellence in Teaching Award by Faculty/Clinical Faculty: Stacy Kelly
  • Excellence in Research and Artistry Award by Faculty: Zach Wahl-Alexander
  • Excellence in Service Award by Faculty: Jesse “Woody” Johnson
  • Exceptional Contributions by Instructor: Carolyn Riley
  • Exceptional Contributions by Civil Service Staff: Pat Wielert
  • Exceptional Contributions by Supportive Professional Staff: Margee Myles
  • Outreach / Community Service Award: Jenn Jacobs
  • Exceptional Contributions in Diversity / Social Justice Award: Joseph Flynn (not pictured)

Student-Faculty Links invites applications for fall mentors

fall-leavesFaculty and staff are invited to apply to be a Student-Faculty Links (SFL) mentor to a new Huskie for the fall 2018 semester.

NIU’s Student-Faculty Links mentorship program has successfully connected first-year freshman and transfer students to faculty and staff mentors for almost 30 years.

SFL is a semi-structured mentoring program that provides ongoing, optional support throughout the first-semester of the mentoring relationship. Faculty and staff mentors are paired with a student based on academic and personal interests.

The deadline for applications is Friday, Aug. 10.

Call (815) 753-0028 or email for more information.