Month: April 2018

Educate U.S. program to offer unique glimpse of rural teaching inside North Dakota reservation

mandareeNorth Dakota’s Mandaree School District is a three-hour drive from the nearest airport in Bismarck.

The closest hotel is at least 20 miles away, if not 30. Shopping for groceries – beyond those for sale at the tiny convenience store in town, that is – requires a a two-hour roundtrip.

Life outside the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation is so far from, well, almost anything, that most teachers in the Mandaree schools live in the duplex apartments right across the street.

“Once you’re there, you’re pretty much there,” says Dianne Zalesky, an instructor in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction. “It is definitely a community in that everyone lives in the same neighborhood.”

And that is exactly where a small group of NIU College of Education Educate U.S. travelers will find themselves the week of May 14.

“Our past Educate U.S. experiences have been in urban settings, significantly larger than their traditional field placements,” says Jenny Johnson, director of teacher preparation for the college. “Our leadership team really wanted to give our teacher-licensure candidates is exposure to, and experience in, a truly rural setting. The Mandaree experience expands the range of opportunities for our candidates to take engaged learning to the next level.”

Caleb Purcell, Haleigh Ellet, Andrew Finch and Delaney Nauman

North Dakota-bound: Caleb Purcell, Haleigh Ellet, Andrew Finch and Delaney Nauman

 

Ninety-eight percent of Mandaree’s fewer than 200 students come from Native American tribes. Some of the two dozen teachers grew up in the Fort Berthold reservation or nearby; others grew up in other reservations.

One building serves the entire K-12 population, which is overseen by a superintendent, an elementary school principal and a high school principal. The district itself falls under the jurisdiction of the Bureau of Indian Education of the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

Zalesky made the initial contact with the Mandaree School District when she visited in the summer of 2017 as a certified consultant for WIDA (World-class Instructional Design and Assessment).

Dianne Zalesky

Dianne Zalesky

The WIDA consortium advances academic language development and academic achievement for children and youth who are culturally and linguistically diverse. Zalesky presented professional development on working with diverse learners and the English Language Development Standards.

While Zalesky could not personally observe student-teacher interaction during the summer, the time she spent living among and working with teachers spoke volumes.

“I was having a conversation with Superintendent Ann Longie, just talking about what a great experience I had meeting the teachers there,” Zalesky says, “and I told her about some of the opportunities that NIU College of Education students have, one being Educate U.S.”

Both believed that five days in Mandaree would provide a unique perspective to future teachers, one beyond the already diverse array of clinical experience the college offers. Dean Laurie Elish-Piper, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs David Walker and Johnson agreed.

“What I would like to think is that they will see some different methods, simply because it’s a different population – or maybe not. Maybe it’s not that different,” says Zalesky, who will return to Mandaree to supervise the Educate U.S. students. “I would hope they’ll see the cultural and community aspects that influence instruction. I would hope they would see that there aren’t too many fluent speakers of indigenous languages.”

educate-us-logo-2She knows they observe “a strong sense of commitment” to students from teachers and, most of all, flexibility.

Much of that flexibility comes in response to the hiring and retention of teachers in a region of the country with brutal winters, she adds.

“I met teachers who the previous year taught fourth- or fifth-grade, and this year they’re teaching kindergarten or first. Last year, they were teaching social studies and science, and this year English or math,” Zalesky says. “They just say, ‘This is what I’m teaching. I might have four or five preps at multiple grade levels and multiple content areas from one year to the next.”

Administrators are part of that equation as well.

“If they need a bus driver, the superintendent will drive the bus. A building principal will drive the bus,” she says. “People just pitch in to do what they need to do, without question, without complaint and without a second thought.”

NIU’s select students will taste a bit of that flexibility, Johnson says.

“There is nothing like this in our service region, so participating in this experience is an added value. It’s a rich opportunity to see teaching and learning through a completely different lens,” she says. “The more they know and experience, the more highly qualified they will be upon graduation, and the more tools they will have to plan and design instruction for the students they’ll serve.”

Mandaree classrooms will bring to life what NIU College of Education students learn in their courses about diverse instruction, demonstrating how those theories and methods are implemented in different spaces to support student growth.

Jennifer Johnson

Jennifer Johnson

Licensure candidates also will learn about professional development in rural schools, Johnson adds, as well as “the culture of teachers and students living in the same small space during the education cycle.”

As with the semiannual trips to the Houston Independent School District, the NIU College of Education pays for all travel expenses. Housing accommodations are provided by the partner districts, allowing Educate U.S. participants the opportunity to experience community, culture and authentic home-school connections.

Educate U.S. travelers are eligible for the university’s Engage PLUS transcript notation.



Start your engines: Engage U.S. transports Sport Management grad students to Indianapolis

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The trip begins!

First-year graduate students in Sport Management magnified their credentials this month with a behind-the-scenes look at operations of the NCAA, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and Purdue University’s athletic and recreational sport facilities.

Part of the NIU College of Education’s Engage U.S. program, the overnight trip to the Hoosier State came together through professional associates of Department of Kinesiology and Physical Education faculty Steve Howell and Claire Schaeperkoetter.

Both professors in Sport Management believe that the hands-on learning sets NIU apart from its competitors and offers a strong marketing point for recruitment.

“We want to provide some industry insights to the overall learning experiences of our students,” says Howell, an associate professor and director of Graduate Studies for the department.

“Given that Indianapolis isn’t far from NIU, and Claire’s connections at the NCAA, and my relationships with various folks at Purdue University, we thought it would be a good fit,” he adds. “These applied and practical sides of the sport management industry are nice complements to what students learn in the classroom.”

Steve Howell and Claire Schaeperkoetter

Steve Howell and Claire Schaeperkoetter

Schaeperkoetter, who Howell says was “instrumental in organizing the nuts and bolts of the trip itinerary,” chose Indianapolis for its proximity to DeKalb and its vibrant cluster of collegiate and professional sport venues.

“Any sort of undergraduate or graduate program is looking for ways to provide unique experiences to their students,” says Schaeperkoetter, an assistant professor. “It’s good for students to hear industry professionals reiterate a lot of the concepts we talk about in class. It really adds that practical component. They can have those light bulb moments and connect the dots.”

The first stop on the trip, which took place April 19 and 20, was the NCAA headquarters.

NCAA staff conducted three panel discussions covering such topics as finance, marketing, compliance, championships and ticket sales. Students asked questions – “How did you get to where are you now?” – and heard valuable tips for success.

indy-6During a subsequent tour of the NCAA facility and its Hall of Champions, the students were able to learn more about the storied history of the college sports organization while they exchanged business cards with their hosts.

Enhanced networking took place that evening when NIU’s group gathered at a local restaurant for dinner with NCAA employees, some of whom had not participated in the panel discussions.

“Our students were able to chat with people from industry,” Schaeperkoetter says, “and pick their brains a little bit about their own career experiences, how they got their feet in the door and climbed the proverbial ladder.”

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Friday morning began at the legendary Speedway.

“We toured the race track, got a historical overview of the facility, got a better understanding of some of the operational aspects and heard about what goes into hosting the races – the Indy 500 and the Brickyard 400,” Howell says. “We also got a nice tour of their museum.”

Riding on a bus around the rectangular oval, the NIU travelers also began to understand “just how many people are able to fit in the stands,” Schaeperkoetter adds. “You think that a major football stadium maybe seats 100,000. They can fit three to four times that. When you think about the management of that, the sponsorship opportunities, the logistics – it’s really interesting.”

indy-9The last stop came at Purdue, where Howell earned all three of his degrees, served as a graduate assistant at the France A. Córdova Recreational Sports Center and interned in the Athletics Department.

NIU’s group toured Mackey Arena as well as the Rec Center, which was “transformed” in 2012 with nearly $100 million of renovations and expansions. “It’s one of the best rec centers in the country,” Schaeperkoetter says. “We took a tour for an hour, maybe an hour-and-a-half, and, honestly, we could’ve spent three hours on that tour. That’s how big it is.”

Back in DeKalb, students expressed their gratitude for the opportunity and their willingness to promote the value of Engage U.S. experiences to next year’s first-year grad students in Sport Management.

Schaeperkoetter and Howell, meanwhile, are pleased with the results of their maiden voyage.

“It opened our students’ eyes to even more opportunities in the field of Sport Management. I can’t tell you how many students came up to me and said, ‘I hadn’t even thought about that as an opportunity,’ ” Schaeperkoetter says. “This kind of real-world experience, outside of our dynamic classes, just adds another piece to the grad school puzzle.”

Howell enjoyed watching the students interact outside of their Anderson Hall classroom.

“They really enjoyed not only the learning component of this but the opportunity to network and the opportunity to bounce ideas of each other,” he says. “We’re already very excited to start organizing our trip for next year.”

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When in Indy … NIU’s travelers join in the tradition of “kissing the bricks,”
started by NASCAR champion Dale Jarrett after his Brickyard 400 victory in 1996.



Marguerite Key Fellows names first class of school principals

key-fellows-2018

Top: Rachel Bednar and Jay Brickman
Middle: Patrick Hardy and Debra Klein
Bottom:Katie Matthews and Chris Tennyson

Six principals from NIU’s service region have been named as the inaugural Marguerite Key Fellows, a new initiative of the NIU College of Education.

The six principals will gather Thursday, June 21 on the DeKalb campus for an intensive leadership retreat to share creative and potentially transformational ideas to “unlock” higher education for underserved populations of students.

Organizers hope that these conversations will not only shepherd such students into college but also prepare them for success there.

The Marguerite Key Fellows Program was proposed by Alan Clemens, an instructor in the Department of Leadership, Educational Psychology and Foundations, and Carolyn Pluim, chair of the department. The program was made possible by a gift Key made to the department with the goal of advancing the principalship across NIU’s service region.

“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,” says Clemens, research associate and director of the Illinois Post-Secondary Report Card at NIU’s Center for P-20 Engagement.

Carolyn Pluim and Alan Clemens

Carolyn Pluim and Alan Clemens

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

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

“The Marguerite 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.”

Marguerite Key

Marguerite Key

Key graduated in 1944 from Northern Illinois State Teachers College – now known as NIU – with a major in biology and a minor in music. When the Kellogg Foundation funded a program in Illinois to place a health educator on the staff of each state college, she came back to Northern.

She and her husband spent their professional lives in Washington, D.C., where she enjoyed a 40-year career in the Arlington County Schools as director of guidance in a middle school while he worked with the National Education Association.

Widowed in 1995, she returned to DeKalb and became involved in the successful campaign to purchase the Milan Township one-room schoolhouse and to move it to the NIU campus.

As she became more involved in activities and programs in the College of Education, she served on the college’s Development Committee for many years and helped to develop and promote fundraising and volunteer efforts. Her financial gifts enabled the development and implementation of innovative programs in the areas of principal and superintendent preparation.



LEARN-IT scheduled May 5

learn-it-logo-2018Claire Duvall first attended the annual LEARN-IT Conference as a graduate student in the Department of Educational Technology, Research and Assessment.

Now Duvall is the department’s online program support specialist – and the coordinator of the event that this year will feature eye-tracking devices, Lego robotics, makerspaces and more.

“I attended when I was just starting out in my master’s, and it was very helpful for me to get an overall feel for the field,” Duvall says. “Going to the LEARN-IT Conference exposed me to so many different technologies, and it got me revved up and excited. I’m a real hands-on learner, and I love the hands-on component of it.”

Scheduled from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Saturday, May 5, in the Learning Center of Gabel Hall, the conference provides more than 100 Instructional Technology generalists and in-service teachers from P-12 school districts in the region with a day of workshops, training activities and research roundtables that help them master technology to enhance learning for all students.

Yanghee Kim, the College of Education’s Morgridge Endowed Chair in Teacher Education and Preparation, will deliver the keynote address: “Augmenting Human Capabilities through Human Technology Partnership.”

Attendees explore tools and strategies for integrating technology for learning and assessment in meaningful ways. They also can experiment with the tools and technologies in a hands-on environment.

The goal remains simple: to help educators transform the teaching-and-learning environment with “low-cost, high-impact” technologies that facilitate meaningful learning.

“People love it,” Duvall says. “Dr. Robert and Mrs. Mary F. English donated the money to put on this conference, and it’s to promote using technology in the classroom in an impactful way and not just for technology’s sake.”

Breakout sessions include:

  • Accessibility for A11ies: Concepts, Applications and Methods
  • Data-Driven Decision Making for K-12 Classroom Teachers
  • Demystifying User Experience (UX) and UX Technologies
  • Electrical PBL: Batteries, Bulbs and Arduinos
  • Knowledge Visualization in Text
  • LEGO Education: STEM Robotics with Mindstorms EV3
  • LEGO Education: WeDoSTEM 2.0
  • Robots and AR and Games! Oh My!
  • Tech Tools to Help You Get Your Game On!
  • The No-tech Makerspace for Next Generation Science Standards-aligned lessons and curricula

Registration is $20 for current NIU students and $29 for general admission. For more information, call (815) 753-9339 or email cduvall@niu.edu.



Grant to advance counseling named in honor of Toni Tollerud

Toni Tollerud

Toni Tollerud

Toni Tollerud’s service to education, from teaching to counseling, spans nearly 50 years.

Yet her legacy will last far longer through the new Toni R. Tollerud School Counselor Grant, created and funded by the Schultz Foundation for Advancing Counseling.

Recipients will use grants of up to $1,000 to finance school counseling projects in Illinois that benefit underserved student populations, boost awareness of counseling, raise knowledge of obtaining support for school counseling, implement technology, improve counselor education and encourage counselors and students to become involved in the profession.

After the projects are completed, recipients must submit the results for publication in appropriate professional journals or as proposals for presentations at professional conferences on counseling.

“It’s a tremendous honor,” says Tollerud, who retired from NIU in 2016 as interim associate dean of the College of Education and helped to write the grant criteria. “It’s overwhelming for me to think that my name will live on and provide something to professionals in the field.”

Melanie Rawlins, founder and board president of the Schultz Foundation, calls Tollerud a “leader” and “change agent” clearly deserving of the honor.

“I have known Toni since she’s been in Illinois, and I don’t know of any other professional counselor – or professional – that I respect more than Toni Tollerud,” Rawlins says.

“No other counselor-educator in Illinois has impacted counselor-ed training, professional development for counselors in the field, counseling in the public schools and working with mental health affiliates across the state than Dr. Tollerud,” she adds. “Her work continues to regenerate itself well after her initial efforts.”

schultz-logoAmy Rasing, executive director of the Schultz Foundation, calls the new grant “an exciting addition to the resources – grants, programs, networking – that the foundation offers to counseling graduate students and mental health professionals throughout the state.”

“Since 2007, over $230,000 has been awarded in in grant funds,” Rasing says. “It is our hope that this grant will help to promote the opportunities offered and engage more people in becoming involved in contributing to the funds we have to offer, literally helping put our tagline to action: Empowering Professionals, Enriching Lives.”

Empowering professionals and enriching lives are lifelong passions for Tollerud, a Distinguished Teaching Professor Emeritus in the Department of Counseling, Adult and Higher Education who remains an icon in the world of school counseling.

The former president of the Illinois Counseling Association helped to write the state standards in 2003, work that redefined the role of a school counselor in the Prairie State. The new language held that school counselors need not have teaching experience.

She also was instrumental in writing the first Developmental Counseling Model for Illinois Schools, which contains the guidelines for program development and recommended practices and procedures for professional school counselors.

Friends and colleagues of Tollerud are invited to celebrate the naming from 5 to 6:30 p.m. Friday, May 14, at NIU-Naperville, 1120 E. Diehl Road. Members of the NIU Counseling Association sponsored the room.

RSVPs are required.

For more information about applying for, or making a donation in honor of Tollerud to support the grants awarded by the foundation, visit www.advancingcounseling.org.



Community Learning Series sheds light on autism, transition

Sarah Johnston-Rodriguez

Sarah Johnston-Rodriguez

Parents who attended the College of Education’s Spring 2018 Community Learning Series left with a loud-and-clear message.

They must advocate strongly and continuously for their children with autism, especially when those children are in high school or nearing the age of 22 as they move into adulthood.

Future teachers of Special Education heard the same call to action during the April 10 event.

“It behooves the educator to take it upon themselves to be a lifelong learner in the areas related to transition,” said Christine Putlak, assistant director of the A.E.R.O. Special Education Cooperative. “Transition is, without a doubt, the most complicated part of the field.”

Daunting as it might seem, however, the process is not impossible.

And, as moderator Sarah Johnston-Rodriguez told the crowd of nearly 200, “Tonight, we want to focus on practices that work.”

Johnston-Rodriguez, a professor in the NIU Department of Special and Early Education, began with statistics on young adults on the autism spectrum.

Nineteen percent of young adults with ASD between the ages of 20 and 25 have lived independently from their parents without supervision after graduation. Only 58 percent had ever worked during their early 20s.

Toni Van Laarhoven, Benji Rubin and Christine Putlak

Toni Van Laarhoven, Benji Rubin and Christine Putlak

Meanwhile, while 97 percent received transition service during high school, many are left without such supports and services afterward. Thirty-seven percent “disconnected,” neither continuing their education nor working outside the home; 28 percent were unemployed, not attending postsecondary school or training and without support or services.

Benji Rubin, an attorney with Rubin Law Offices whose practice is exclusively limited to special needs legal and future planning, told parents that they need to begin the work toward the age 22 cut-off as soon as possible. Age 21 is too late, he said.

High on the must-do list is the PUNS (Prioritization for Urgency of Need for Services), the statewide waiting list. Those without funding or services could find themselves simply “sitting at home” while they wait beyond their 22nd birthdays.

“It’s important that you push,” he said. “It’s important that you not accept them not receiving services at age 22.”

Siblings of young adults with ASD also must prepare, Rubin said.

“The sibling perspective is crucial. They’re the ones who are going to be carrying that torch when mom and dad no longer can,” he said. “Include the siblings as early as possible.”

Khushbu Dalvi, Kori Jung and Traci Van Laarhoven-Myers

Khushbu Dalvi, Kori Jung and Traci Van Laarhoven-Myers

NIU Presidential Teaching Professor Toni Van Laarhoven and her twin sister, Traci Van Laarhoven-Myers, vocational coordinator at Waubonsie Valley High School, spoke of the power of self-determination and self-advocacy.

Their Project My Voice enables students with intellectual disabilities to participate fully in their transition planning through expressing their preferences in such areas as education, employment, living arrangements, health, safety, community and more.

“Ask individuals what they want,” Van Laarhoven said. “It is important that they become empowered and self-advocate for their futures.”

“Authentic work experiences are important for individuals with disabilities to have prior to exiting the school system,” Van Laarhoven-Myers said. “Not only is it important to build on the students’ strengths, interests and preferences, it is also critical to expand and capitalize on natural supports within the environment while putting in place strategies that help students cope with changing circumstances in the work setting.”

Panelists also told the audience about Indicator 13 – it calls for annual updates of postsecondary goals of young adults ages 16 and older who have Individualized Education Plans – and its demand for evidence that the students are invited to their IEP meetings.

Toni Van Laarhoven

Toni Van Laarhoven

Kori Jung, teacher and case manager in the Arlington Heights District 214 Transition Program, advised future teachers in the audience to truly know their students as well as their families and to advocate for them.

“If we can focus on the strengths-based model, our students are going to be successful,” Jung said. “Everyone has the right to work, and everyone can work.”

Khushbu Dalvi, program coordinator for the Parents Alliance Employment Project, explained her role in Project Search, an internship-based program in local hospitals.

The initiative also helps students with their interview skills – “Even if you know how to do the job, you still have to get a foot in the door,” Dalvi said – as well as leadership development. Students who’ve already become integrated in the hospitals can then teach their peers about how to succeed at the internships.

Questions from the audience touched on such issues as customized jobs, how to find employers, equal wages, the most important government benefits, physical education and more.



Student Appreciation Day 2018

Thanks to all volunteers who helped April 10 at Student Appreciation Day, during which the College of Education celebrates students by providing free hot dogs, chips and beverages. Some lucky students also won door prizes donated by local businesses.

Please enjoy some photos from that day!