Month: January 2017

Belizean Youth Sport Coalition takes next step as project wraps

Paul Wright

Paul Wright

Just look at the numbers.

Three years. Twenty-seven organizations. One hundred and twenty-one coaches, teachers and youth workers trained – 13 of them traveling to the United States for that preparation, partly delivered by three NIU students. Fifteen hundred youth enrolled in summer programs. Three thousand youth in school programs.

Paul Wright could go on about the Belizean Youth Sport Coalition (BYSC) project, which began in 2013 and officially wrapped up this September, but the data speaks for itself.

“I have been amazed and so grateful to the people who have contributed to making this project a success,” says Wright, a professor in the NIU Department of Kinesiology and Physical Education. “It’s been about collaboration and teamwork, and the talent, commitment and complementary skills of the U.S. team was matched by our Belizean partners.”

Funded by the U.S. Department of State’s SportsUnited program, the BYSC aimed to promote youth development and social change through sport.



COE department celebrates new name, faculty members

helloAn NIU College of Education department is beginning the new semester with a new name.

Meet the Department of Curriculum and Instruction.

Formerly known as Literacy and Elementary Education, the department changed its moniker to better reflect the diverse teaching, learning and faculty that make it up.

“With the Program Prioritization process, we had two new faculty members join us from the Department of Leadership, Educational Psychology and Foundations. It seemed really important then to think about who we are and the programming that we offer,” Chair Anne Gregory said.

“What we found is that there were very few people who thought that our name actually represented us and our expertise. We’ve also had questions from potential students saying, ‘I can’t find you,’ ” Gregory added. “With that said, we considered other alternatives.”



Melanie Koss enjoys opportunity to honor Congressman Lewis

NIU’s Melanie Koss and Congressman John Lewis

NIU’s Melanie Koss and Congressman John Lewis

Melanie Koss knows a great book – or a great graphic novel – when she reads one.

And, Koss says, Congressman John Lewis“March: Book Three” is a triumph.

Its sweep of the American Library Association awards for 2017 includes the prestigious Michael L. Printz Award, which recognizes excellence in young adult literature.

Written by Lewis and Andrew Aydin and illustrated by Nate Powell, “March: Book Three” also won the Coretta Scott King Book Award, the National Book Award for young people’s literature and the Walter Dean Myers Award for Outstanding Children’s Literature (Young Adult category).

But for Koss, an associate professor in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction with expertise in children’s literature, young adult literature and multicultural children’s literature, it’s the Printz that means the most. She chairs the nine-member Printz committee this year.

“The book starts with the bombing in Birmingham and ends with the march on Selma, with intermittent jumps to Past-President Obama’s inauguration and Lewis’ interactions with Obama as a congressman in present day,” Koss says.

“Not only is this graphic novel telling the story of a very important time in American history, it’s the way it’s telling it. It’s from Congressman Lewis’ point of view, and the artwork perfectly enhances the text,” she adds.

“It’s all black and white, and it’s almost cinematic, like a movie. There are close-ups, and you can almost feel what it’s like to be John Lewis, to have his head cracked open, to be wounded by the police. It’s just a powerful story.”

march-book-threeFollowing a weekend of closed-door deliberations in Atlanta from Friday, Jan. 20, through Sunday, Jan. 22, Koss and her Printz committee colleagues enjoyed the opportunity to inform Lewis about the award and to congratulate him in person.

Her phone call to Leigh Walton, the congressman’s publicist, made it happen.

While en route to a conference book signing, and a day after leading Saturday’s Women’s March in Atlanta, Lewis stopped at the hotel where the various ALA awards committees were encamped.

“We were all standing there and, as chair, I was able to tell him that he had won, and just how thrilled and honored we were that he had written such a powerful book,” Koss says.

“We judged the book on its literary quality; however, it just happens to be completely relevant, especially in light of what is happening in our country today,” she adds. “At the end, there’s a simple photo of a cell phone ringing, which we interpret as a call to action for our country moving forward.”

Lewis was “surprised, honored and gracious,” Koss says.

“He told us how much he appreciates the support his book is getting from the library and education communities, and how important – especially now – learning from history, and moving forward, is for your nation’s youth,” she says.

“It was overwhelming to be in the presence of this man who is larger than life, and to see how passionate he still is,” she adds. “Yet he’s also very humble. It’s almost like he doesn’t realize how important he is, but he’s appreciative of the attention the ‘March’ series is getting to bring his story to a younger generation.”

Lewis will visit Chicago this summer for the annual ALA conference, where the awards are officially presented.

Until that time, Koss expects that momentum will continue to grow for all three installments in the “March” trilogy.

Melanie Koss

Melanie Koss

“Graphic novels are often not considered literary enough for the classroom, but graphic novels – as a medium – are something young adults really like. We live in a visual society, and text with images resonate with our nation’s youth,” Koss says.

“Another reason this book is so powerful is the topic. It’s so authentic and honest. It doesn’t sugarcoat,” she adds.

“We often hear about civil rights from the white perspective. We hear it from a distance. We learn about Rosa Parks. But ‘March’ is in the middle of the action, from the African-American lens. John Lewis is a civil rights icon. He was there, marching with Martin Luther King. He was on the front lines. This is his story.”

Four Printz Honor Books also were named: “Asking for It,” by Louise O’Neill; “The Passion of Dolssa,” by Julie Berry; “Scythe,” by Neal Shusterman; and “The Sun Is Also a Star,” by Nicola Yoon.



Shooting for the moon

open-doors-fiStudents in the NIU College of Education’s Open Doors project help second-graders at Lincoln Elementary School in Bellwood to identify their visions and map the roads to realizing them.

Nakeya wants to be a ballet dancer. Jamari wants to be a train conductor. Isabel wants to design fashions for famous people. Deandre wants to be an astronaut. Phillip wants to be an animator. Kenyatti wants to produce video games.

“I am extremely proud of my students during our visits to Bellwood. I think they represent NIU’s College of Education very well. They give 110 percent to the students they support while visiting Lincoln,” says Natalie Young, an instructor in the Early Childhood Studies program of the Department of Special and Early Education.

“My goal is for my students to not only teach the children, but to learn from the students as well,” Young adds, “which is what all good teachers do.”

Read all about it – and watch the video – courtesy of the NIU Newsroom.



Alumni Accomplishments

Anwer Al-Zahrani

Anwer Al-Zahrani

Congratulations to these College of Ed alums!

Anwer Al-Zahrani, Ed.D. Instructional Technology, ’15, was in October named deputy for Curriculum and Quality Assurance at Jubail Industrial College.

John R. Almond, B.S. ’68, M.S.Ed. ’75, and Anita J. Almond, ’68, celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary Dec. 31. The couple was married Dec. 31, 1966, at Immanuel Lutheran Church in DeKalb. They raised two sons and are now both retired, John from a teaching career and Anita from a computer consulting career.

Colette Yeiser Boyd, B.A. ’71, M.S.Ed. ’74, was elected to the Oliver Wolcott Library Board of Trustees in Litchfield, Conn.

P.J. Fleck

P.J. Fleck

P.J. Fleck, B.S. Ed. ’04, Elementary Education, was named Jan. 6 as head coach of the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers football team. Fleck’s new job comes on the heels of a triumphant career at Western Michigan University, where he led the Broncos to a 2016 Mid-American Conference championship and a berth in the Jan. 2 Cotton Bowl.

Mark L. Goldstein, M.S.Ed.’72, a clinical and forensic psychologist, was editor of Handbook of Child Custody, published by Springer Scientific.  He was previously co-editor of Handbook of Forensic Sociology and Psychology, also published by Springer Scientific in 2013. Dr. Goldstein has served as an expert witness in more than 1,200 forensic cases in 12 states. He maintains a forensic and clinical practice in the Chicago area, and has served on the graduate faculty of several universities.

Jan S. Half, M.S.Ed. ’80, of San Mateo, Calif., received the 2016 Silicon Valley Women of Influence Award, honoring women in leadership roles who have influenced their industries as well as their communities. Half recently retired from a career that included working as a middle-school teacher; selling technology products and services; acting as a regional technology director for the California Department of Education; and directing a student technology nonprofit.

Odin Jurkowski

Odin Jurkowski

Odin Jurkowski, Ed.D. Instructional Technology, ’03, has been appointed associate dean of Graduate Studies for the College of Education at the University of Central Missouri.

Adam Kimble, M.S. Sport Management, ’12, is a “survivalist” on the Discovery Channel’s new reality show, “The Wheel.” The program, which premiered Jan. 13, “dares six participants to survive in six distinctly grueling landscapes across South America. With every turn of the wheel, each survivalist is dropped into a new isolated location, exposed to the world’s deadliest terrains including freezing tundra, rugged mountains and treacherous rainforest.” Kimble, an ultra-runner, made headlines last year when he crossed the United States on foot in 60 days.

Sara Christiansen Knigge, B.S. Ed. ’94, has co-authored a Spanish reading workbook for bilingual and dual language classrooms through her company, READ en Espanol, Inc. She offers consulting to school districts with large Spanish-speaking populations.

Melinda Tejada

Melinda Tejada

Melinda Tejada, Ed.D. Curriculum Leadership, ’13, was honored in November by the Business Ledger’s 19th annual Influential Women in Business awards program. Tejada is vice president of Student Development at Waubonsee Community College, where she provides leadership and oversight for services such as Admissions, Athletics, Financial Aid, Student Life, the Access Center for Disability Resources, Career Development, Learning Assessment and Testing Services, Student Support Services, Upward Bound and more.

Betty Trummel, M.S.Ed. ’91, is one of 78 women worldwide selected to participate in a Homeward Bound expedition, an elite science leadership expedition to Antarctica.

Dan Verdun, M.S.Ed. ’96, and Barry Bottino created a Chicago Now blog, Prairie State Pigskin, to share news on Division I college football programs in Illinois.

Maria Walther

Maria Walther

Maria Walther, B.S. Ed. ’86, M.S. Ed. ’93 and Ed.D. ’98, has received the Illinois Reading Council’s 2016 Hall of Fame Award. Walther, whose doctorate is in elementary education, has taught first-grade since 1986. She currently teaches in Indian Prairie District 204. According to IRC Past President Cindy Gerwin, Walther’s “passion for reading and writing will affect generations of readers and writers in her community, throughout the state of Illinois, across the country and internationally.”

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.



CoE online graduate programs earn high U.S. News rankings for fifth consecutive year

Laptop and coffeeOnline graduate programs in the NIU College of Education continue to perform near the top of the country, according to new rankings released today by U.S. News & World Report.

NIU places fourth (tied with the University of Nebraska-Lincoln) in the current honor roll of 200 schools, earning a fifth consecutive spot among the nation’s Top 5 and its sixth nod overall.

Among the nine other Illinois schools ranked, only the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (tied for 10th) and the University of St. Francis (tied for 29th) are in the Top 50. Ten universities in the Mid-American Conference are ranked, including Buffalo and Ohio, which are among the five institutions tied for 10th.

Dean Laurie Elish-Piper considers the college’s annual recognition as “evidence of our high-quality online graduate programs.”

“Our faculty are at the cutting-edge of designing and delivering online education that is rigorous, engaging and interactive,” Elish-Piper said. “Our faculty, advisers and support staff are available to assist students in our online programs every step of the way so they can be successful in their programs and in their professions.”

The NIU College of Education offers three online master’s degrees within the departments of Educational Technology, Research and Assessment (ETRA) and Leadership, Educational Psychology and Foundations (LEPF).

•    Educational Research and Evaluation (ETRA)
•    Instructional Technology (ETRA)
•    School Business Management (LEPF)

ETRA Chair Wei-Chen Hung heralds a continued and collective effort “attributed to faculty credentials, both academic and specifically for teaching online courses, and student engagement.”

Wei-Chen Hung and Carolyn Pluim (Vander Schee)

Wei-Chen Hung and Carolyn Pluim (Vander Schee)

“One particular highlight this year is that we further enhanced our assessment approach by working closely with Research and Assessment faculty to develop assessment instruments and rubric that help us better prepare our students for job markets,” Hung said.

“We are also in the process of updating our curriculum to integrating emerging practices and technologies in the field.”

Acting LEPF Chair Carolyn Pluim (Vander Schee) calls the six-year streak of U.S. News recognition a “nice salute” to the hard work of students as well as talented faculty, including Patrick Roberts, who chaired the department from 2013 to 2016, and full-time professors and adjunct instructors who bring decades of diverse and practical experience.

“We’re committed to continually improving our modes of delivery, to making sure that our course content is relevant and current and to engaging students in what they need to know as school business officials,” Pluim said. “We also have a fabulous relationship with the Illinois Association of School Business Officials that helps us to recruit top students to the program.”

U.S. News & World Report began collecting data on online programs in 2012 – NIU made the “honor roll” that first year – on the belief that “online learning is becoming integral to all types of education, including higher education, and that consumers are hungry for information related to online degrees.”

Its rankings make no distinction between not-for-profit and for-profit sectors.

Rankings are based on five categories, which are weighted: student engagement (35 percent), student services and technology (20 percent), admissions selectivity (15 percent), faculty credentials and training (15 percent) and peer reputation (15 percent).



Elementary Education enhances curriculum with new emphases

Anne Gregory

Anne Gregory

Elementary Education majors at NIU will enter the teaching field a step ahead of their peers.

Three new emphases – Bilingual/ESL, Reading Teacher and Special Education – will provide automatic endorsements in areas that previously required additional coursework.

For example, the Reading Teacher endorsement, designed for teachers who teach reading in a setting other than a self-contained classroom, currently entails 24 semester hours of credit in stand-alone courses.

Now, says Anne Gregory, chair of the Department of Literacy and Elementary Education, faculty will “purposefully incorporate” those lessons into existing courses.

With the innovation, students can complete their degrees and endorsements within four years, saving time and money while becoming more marketable: They’ll graduate with a “broad view” of what teachers can provide to young learners.

“It will make them look very different than anyone else in the state,” Gregory says. “There aren’t any other programs in Illinois that look like this. There are five-year programs elsewhere, but none that include this many options for candidates. And, no one else has done a four-year program. We will be a leader.”

Students also can pursue multiple endorsements, although that would extend their time in school.

Approved Dec. 15 by the NIU Board of Trustees, and slated to begin in the fall of 2017, the new emphases meet the demands of preservice teacher-candidates as well as Illinois public school districts.

“Our school districts are telling us, ‘These are the kinds of teachers we need,’ and we’re trying to respond to that need,” Gregory says. “And, when I talk to potential students and their parents, they say, ‘You can do that?’ They’re very excited.”

shelvesState of Illinois codes also are evolving, Gregory says, which further prompted faculty to reconsider how they structure and deliver courses.

Elementary Education majors who currently are juniors can take advantage of the new emphases beginning this semester.

Freshmen and sophomores currently working on general education credits will enter the program as Elementary Education majors (a change from the previous “pre-Elementary Education” designation).

They also will experience greater and earlier engagement with opportunities to enroll in a Themed Learning Community, live in the T.E.A.C.H. House, attend workshops and interview for participation in the department’s professional series.

Gregory and her colleagues also will welcome freshmen each fall at a special reception. “We want to provide students with these additional supports they need to become successful,” she says.

Changing the emphasis configuration requires no new resources, she adds. The courses and the “responsive and reflexive” faculty needed to implement the program are in place.

“These courses were on the books already. The Reading Teacher courses hadn’t been offered forever, but we had the impetus, and the ground was laid. Curriculum is supposed to be a living, breathing thing,” she says.

“We started re-examining what was happening in our courses, and asking ourselves, ‘Do we really need to do it this way?’ And, with my being new, it was easy for me to say, ‘Why?’ – and to start asking questions.”

For more information, call (815) 753-8556 or email ltcy@niu.edu.



Woof! ETRA prof Tom Smith barks up the global media tree

Tom Smith and Rex

Tom Smith and Rex

For Tom Smith, the days before the winter break proved crazy-busy hectic.

And it had nothing to do with the holidays.

It was head-spinning, to tell you the truth,” says Smith, a co-author on a study that scored international headlines for its information on whether stress can make dogs go gray.

“I actually had a news alert set up on Google, and it kept popping up on there – CBS News, Huffington Post, Yahoo!, Scientific American, People magazine, Wired.com, CNN, hundreds of news outlets in the U.S., U.K, Europe, Asia, Africa, the Middle East,” he adds. “The news anchors even talked about it on ‘Good Morning America,’ and BBC-TV contacted us.”

The professor in the Department of Educational Technology, Research and Assessment, who gave numerous interviews with reporters in December, became involved in the project thanks to College of Education alumna Camille King (Ed.D. in adult education, 2011). She’s a nurse and animal behaviorist.

“Camille was a student of mine, and I was on her dissertation committee, too. She did her dissertation research on therapy dogs under Gene Roth’s guidance,” Smith says. “Camille had moved to Colorado, and then she contacted me to ask if I would help her on research she was planning to do on pressure wraps – also known as Thundershirts® – and how they affect anxiety and heart rates in dogs. Temple Grandin was involved, too. I said, yeah, I’d be interested.”

King, Smith and Grandin eventually published that study in a top veterinary journal, Smith says. That validation prompted his former student to begin the latest project on whether anxiety and impulsiveness in dogs is related to graying of their muzzles, and to again seek her professor’s help with the methodological, statistical and data analysis components.

puppiesNow, as much of the world knows, the answer is yes: Young dogs that are anxious or given to impulsivity tend to develop gray muzzles.

Smith admits he was surprised by the finding, quickly adding that King was not.

“I was a little skeptical that stress would be related to the gray muzzle in dogs, and young dogs especially,” he says. “I didn’t express that to Camille at the time, but that’s sort of how I felt. However, when we analyzed the data, the results actually were striking. Both anxiety and impulsivity were clearly and markedly related to gray muzzles.”

Global interest in that revelation, however, came as no shock.

“People love dogs,” he says, “and we’re hoping that the study draws some attention to dog welfare. Dog anxiety can be a real issue. It can cause health problems and shorter life spans, and it can affect quality of life. We’re hoping people will learn to recognize it and say, ‘Maybe my dog is anxious. Maybe I should talk to a vet about this.’ ”

Rex – one of Smith’s two dogs – fits the description. He’s a young Pomeranian/Chihuahua mix sporting a premature gray muzzle, likely due, at least in part, to the stress of being chased around and bitten on the leg by Smith’s other dog.

mission“Before I knew about this, I would have said that I didn’t think Rex is stressed, but that I also didn’t know why he developed a gray muzzle. I thought my dogs were just playing, but when I described their behavior, Camille told me that my other dog is bullying him,” Smith says. “Rex was under quite a bit of stress!”

With the media spotlight faded, Smith is now able to call the experience with King, Grandin and animal behaviorist Peter Borchelt a “fun” one.

“My background is not at all in dog research. I don’t have a biology background. That being said, I did learn a lot about dogs and animal behavior,” Smith says. “I was also really fortunate to get to work with people like this. They’re really creative thinkers as well as excellent, first-rate researchers. We’ve already planned several additional dog-related research projects, so we’ll be busy!”



Take flight! Educate Global prepares for Taiwan, China

global-2So, how’s this for an amazing deal?

  • Four, or maybe six, weeks teaching English to children and youth in Taiwan or China while mastering the curriculum and methodology for teaching English as a Foreign Language.
  • Exposure to different cultures.
  • Immersion in teaching to diverse populations and an NIU faculty member on site to coach that process.
  • A differentiating accomplishment on a resume.
  • Round-trip airfare, housing and meals covered.

For up to 30 students in the NIU College of Education, that opportunity is coming soon through the Educate Global program.

Thanks to agreements with the Miaoli County Government Education Department in Taiwan and the Beijing Royal School in China, an application-and-interview process will begin this month to send 20 students to Taiwan and 10 to China.

NIU’s Asian partners are willing to underwrite student-teachers from the United States because they regard English as “the world’s language,” says Terry Borg, director of the college’s Office of External & Global Programs.

Terry Borg

Terry Borg

“Learning English as a Foreign Language is a highly sought-after skill in Asia,” Borg says, “and close to learning English is the opportunity to interact with native speakers, preferably U.S. native speakers.”

Students selected for Taiwan will teach English for four weeks in July at a day camp. The private Beijing Royal School, meanwhile, will host students for six weeks from early July through mid-August.

Both groups will also enjoy opportunities for cultural field trips on the weekends.

Applicants who are native English speakers and have completed their third year in a teacher-preparation program with some classroom experience under their belts are eligible, Borg says. Graduate students with pre-K-12 teaching experience are also invited to apply.

College administrators and faculty will choose travelers based on their applications. The process begins in February. For more information, call Barbara Andree at (815) 753-8697 or email globalcoe@niu.edu.

Meanwhile, as the NIU College of Education’s relationship with Taiwan and China grows, other opportunities are blossoming.

Leaders of the Miaoli County Government Education Department hope to offer NIU students who have graduated and secured licensure the chance to teach English for a year in Miaoli elementary schools and middle schools.

passportPending signatures on a Memorandum of Agreement this month, the program would launch this fall. Miaoli will pay round-trip airfare, a generous subsidy for housing and a salary for terms that begin in mid-August and end in mid-July.

For those NIU students who’ve interacted with Miaoli County high-schoolers who’ve visited DeKalb via the Open Imagination Program, and then perhaps taught English during the July day camp, the year-long opportunity brings the international experience full-circle.

“The concept is to provide global career opportunities for our students,” Borg says. “It could make them more valuable in their marketability. We’re developing a niche in preparing students for teaching jobs beyond the Chicago area, and that gives us a competitive edge in Student Career Success.”



Jim Ressler to examine student-teaching model in New Zealand

Jim Ressler

Jim Ressler

Could an innovative model of teacher education in New Zealand translate to the United States?

NIU’s Jim Ressler is soon to find out.

Ressler, an associate professor in the Department of Kinesiology and Physical Education, will spend six weeks during the spring 2017 semester at Victoria University in Wellington, New Zealand.

He will evaluate “a novel approach to teacher education” offered to the country’s universities by the Ministry of Education. Twelve applied; seven – including Victoria – were accepted.

“The student-teacher is immersed in the school site for an entire year – from February to December,” Ressler says. “The first half of the experience is two or three days each week in the schools, and the other days are occupied with university coursework informing their placement. In some cases, the school sites host university courses.”

Even more interesting, he adds, is that “the Ministry of Education has supplemented this national shift with stipends for mentor-teachers in the schools. In the United States, that would be the equivalent of paying cooperating teachers to host our student teachers.”

Ressler is working with Barrie Gordon, a professor who visited KNPE as a Fulbright Scholar in 2013-14.

Barrie Gordon

Barrie Gordon

“Barrie and I have very strong overlap in our research interests, and since his Fulbright, I visited him in New Zealand in early 2015 to scope out the possibility of proposing this sabbatical,” he says. “I initiated some relationships with local schools and kept in touch, and Barrie assured me we could get access to the sites we visited to be able to investigate both the policy and the practice of what it looks like.”

In addition to a series of school visits, Ressler will interview mentor-teachers – he’s already conducting some interviews via Skype – as well as with key personnel in the Ministry of Education, school administrators and university leaders.

He hopes to apply his findings to NIU, where many of his experiences “have been keyed by strong school-university partnerships, notably with the schools in which our programs hold practicums.”

As a liaison with DeKalb Community School District 428 elementary and middle schools, he has become more adept with the changing needs of students, teachers and schools across all content areas in the district. In some cases, the needs can be met with strengths of the university and teacher preparation program.

“We’re making sure those school-university ties are strong,” he says, “meeting outcomes that are most important to the school and to the university, such as higher expectations for student achievement in and out of the classroom, developing rigorous curricula, superior teacher preparation practices, professional learning and joint research.”

nz--flagNew Zealand has “similar aims, but much different routes to get there,” he adds.

“What’s impressive to me, being well aware that New Zealand is a small country, is how much of an imprint the Ministry of Education holds on a national level for these university program offerings,” Ressler says.

“Coming out with initial teacher licensure at the graduate level is, in their eyes, raising the bar for what an incoming teacher has for content knowledge,” he adds. “Those types of candidates are coveted, whereas in our current climate in Illinois and the United States with public education, those candidates might be priced out of a job.”