Category: Alumni

College of Ed royalty remember 1957 Homecoming celebration

David Taylor and Marjorie Brazzalle Meanger

David Taylor and Marjorie Brazzalle Meanger

During the spring of 1957, country-and-western singer Marty Robbins topped the Billboard charts with his timeless ode to a white sport coat, a pink carnation and a lonely prom night.

That fall, it was College of Education student David Taylor’s turn to wear an ivory jacket as the proud and handsome Homecoming king at the newly named Northern Illinois University. Unlike the lovelorn Robbins, however, Taylor had a beautiful date for the dance: Beverly, who would become his wife in 1962.

And on Taylor’s arm during the Homecoming parade College of Ed classmate – and Homecoming Queen – was Marjorie Brazzalle Meanger.

“I loved my years at Northern,” says Meanger, who went on to a thriving career as a kindergarten teacher in St. Charles. “I entered in 1955, when it was Northern Illinois State Teachers College, and I watched the change to Northern Illinois State College and finally NIU. There was a lottery to see which girls would go from the largest freshmen dorm, Neptune, to Williston Hall.”

For Taylor, the journey to DeKalb followed the footsteps of his older brother, Richard.

Both brothers came from the South Side of Chicago with state teacher’s scholarships in hand. Both studied education – Richard bound for a career as a teacher and counselor at Homewood-Flossmoor – and enjoyed four years of covered tuition.

Neptune Hall “had a good organization to get out the Homecoming vote,” says Taylor, whose career in Student Services took him from Macalester College in St. Paul, Minn., to Western Illinois University and Boise State University.

Photo courtesy NIU Regional History Center

Photo courtesy NIU Regional History Center

 

Sixty years later, as NIU prepares for the 2017 Homecoming celebration, recollections of college come easily for the man and woman who wore the crowns in 1957.

Meanger became “a town girl” during her sophomore year and soon met her future husband, Don, who lived across the street. They married in 1960.

“We built many friendships at Northern that continue today,” says Meanger, who lost Don 14 years ago to cancer. “We had two children who kept us busy, along with teaching kindergarten and being involved with our church, community activities and travel every summer.”

Their daughter, Melanie, also attended NIU to earn her degree in physical therapy. Like her mother, Melanie worked the sidelines as Huskie cheerleader – and was able to cheer during the 1983 California Bowl victory over Cal State Fullerton.

Now retired and a grandmother of four, Meanger is “busier than ever” traveling, volunteering and “paying back to the community.”

NIU Homecoming Parade, 1957

NIU Homecoming Parade, 1957
Photo courtesy NIU Regional History Center

“Northern has remained at the top of the list,” she says, “because it gave us both the well-rounded educations needed to do our best in our careers. Go Huskies!”

Taylor remembers fondly an Alpha Phi Omega victory party dance after Student Stunt Night. It was the night the active fraternity officer met Beverly, who studied elementary and special education with an emphasis in speech therapy.

He stayed busy outside his classes by serving as chair of the Homecoming and Winter Carnival committees, president of Alpha Phi Omega, president and R.A. (then called Precinct Captain) of Gilbert Hall and playing intramural sports.

It served him well during his career: Upon his retirement from Boise State, school officials decided to name a residence hall – Taylor Hall – in honor of his dedication to their students and the university while serving as vice president for Student Affairs.

Parents of two and grandparents of two, the Taylors now are enjoying the freedom of retirement by traveling and thinking back to their professional launching pad in DeKalb.

“The good thing about Northern is that it gave you lots of opportunities for involvement,” Taylor says. “They were good times at Northern – good friends and good involvement with all kinds of campus life.”



Alumni Accomplishments

Peggy F. Bradford

Peggy F. Bradford

Congratulations to these College of Ed alums!

Peggy F. Bradford (Ed.D, ’00) was named president of Shawnee Community College. Bradford was previously provost and vice president of academic affairs at the State University of New York Westchester Community College. In returning to her alma mater, where she earned an associate of arts degree, she plans to advance the college by encompassing a student-centered approach to enrollment, retention and culture.

Sherry Eagle

Sherry Eagle

Sherry Eagle (Ed.D, ’94), was appointed in February to the Illinois Board of Higher Education by Gov. Bruce Rauner. Eagle is currently the executive director for the Institute for Collaboration Emerita at Aurora University, where she leads the collaboration work of the university between school districts, corporations, not-for-profits and the community at large. Eagle was previously superintendent of the West Aurora School District.

Heather Friziellie

Heather Friziellie

Heather Friziellie (Ed.S., ’11) became superintendent of Fox Lake School District 114 in July. Friziellie most recently served as director of educational services at Kildeer Countryside Elementary District 96 in Buffalo Grove and principal at Kildeer Countryside Elementary School and Twin Grove Middle School.

Todd Garzarelli

Todd Garzarelli

Todd Garzarelli (M.S. Sport Management, ’06), was named athletic director at UW-Whitewater in July. Garzarelli most recently served as senior associate athletic director for external affairs at State University of New York at Buffalo. From 2004 to 2008, he worked in NIU Athletics as associate athletic director for Marketing, Broadcast and Corporate Relations.

Rich Harvey

Rich Harvey

Rich Harvey (M.S.Ed., ’02) will join the Millikin Athletic Hall of Fame this fall for his accomplishments in football and wrestling. Harvey was a three-time CCIW Champion wrestler and a member of the 1989 CCIW Champion Big Blue football team. He currently serves as the assistant principal at Rochelle Township High School, where he also is the head wrestling coach and an assistant football coach.

Jamie Hooyman

Jamie Hooyman

Jamie Hooyman (M.S.Ed., ’86), was named interim provost of Northwest Missouri State University in June. She began serving as vice provost in 2016. Hooyman served in various roles during the last decade at North Central Missouri College in Trenton, where she spent the last two years as its vice president of institutional effectiveness

Kristen Mattson

Kristen Mattson

Three-time alumna Kristen Mattson (B.S.Ed., ’06; M.S.Ed. ’12; Ed.D, ’16) was awarded the John Laska Distinguished Dissertation Award in curriculum from the American Association for Teaching and Curriculum. Mattson has been invited to present her dissertation, “Moving Beyond Personal Responsibility: A Critical Discourse Analysis of Digital Citizenship Curricula,” at the October AATC annual conference in Denver. She is the High School Library Media Director in Indian Prairie School District 204.

Alex Nelson

Alex Nelson

Alex Nelson (B.S.Ed., ’06) was inducted in June to the Portage High School Hall of Fame in his native Wisconsin. Nelson, a two-time Wisconsin state champ with back-to-back Division I, 145-pound titles as a junior and senior, wrestled for the NIU Huskies. Nelson, a P.E. teacher at North Grove Elementary School in Sycamore, is the head wrestling coach and assistant football coach at Sycamore High School.

Renee Payne

Renee Payne

Renee Payne (B.S.Ed., ’81), was named principal of St. James and St. Bernadette schools in Rockford. Payne previously served as an elementary school principal at St. Alphonsus/St. Patrick School in Lemont from 2008 until 2017. She also taught at Durken Park Elementary School in Chicago and, from 1996 to 2006, she serve as principal at St. Cajetan School in Chicago.

Paula Sochacki

Paula Sochacki

Paula Sochacki (Ed.D. ’16) has joined the faculty at Benedictine University for the 2017-18 academic year. Sochacki is an assistant professor in the Department of Nutrition and program director for the undergraduate Nutrition and Dietetics major. Before joining Benedictine, Sochacki was an assistant professor of Nutrition at Dominican University, an adjunct faculty member at Benedictine University and a clinical dietitian.

Jim Suttie

Jim Suttie

Jim Suttie (B.S.Ed, M.S. ’70) has added Park City, Utah’s Jeremy Ranch Golf Course as one of three academy locations in the country where he offers golf lessons. Suttie, a native of DeKalb, is regarded as one of the world’s best and most respected golf instructors. He played and helped to coach golf at NIU, where he is a member of Huskie Hall of Fame.

Vatthana Thammavongsa

Vatthana Thammavongsa

Vatthana Thammavongsa (B.S.Ed., ’06; M.S.Ed., ’10) was installed with his wife, Donna, as leaders of the Salvation Army chapter in Wausau, Wis. Both are teachers and immigrants from Laos, Vatthana arriving in 1989 and Donna in 1986. Thammavongsa previously served in a full-time ministry position in the Salvation Army Tabernacle Corps in Rockford and most recently worked as an elementary school teacher.

Litesa Wallace

Litesa Wallace

Litesa Wallace (Ed.D., ’13) is running for lieutenant governor of Illinois alongside gubernatorial candidate and Illinois State Sen. Daniel Biss. Wallace, of Rockford, has represented the 67th District in the Illinois General Assembly since 2014. Before becoming chief of staff in 2011 for former State Rep. Chuck Jefferson, whom she replaced in office, she spent more than a decade counseling children and adults in need of mental health services, including child abuse victims and families in crisis.

Douglas Wildes

Douglas Wildes

Douglas Wildes (M.S.Ed., ’07) is the new principal at Elmwood Park High School. His career with DuPage High School District 88 began as a student teacher at Addison Trail High School in 2002, followed by department chair and assistant principal positions at Addison Trail and Willowbrook. He is currently working on his doctorate in the NIU College of Education.

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.



College of Ed alumna shares KNPE instructional philosophies with P.E. teachers in Chicago

Yara Santillan

Yara Santillan

Yara Santillan traded her sneakers for high heels, her gym for a cubicle and her whistle for a smartphone.

What the new coordinator of Physical Education for the Chicago Public Schools hasn’t given up is her drive and ambition to make a positive difference for children through sport.

“I look at my own personal experience,” says Santillan, a two-time alumna of the Department of Kinesiology and Physical Education. “I’ve always noticed that, in the times when I’ve really needed something, sport has always been there. It’s always been there for me. Sport kept me out of trouble.”

Growing up in suburban Aurora during the 1990s – she was born in Mexico but moved with her family to Kane County at the age of 18 months – Santillan glimpsed the danger lurking on the streets but wisely chose kickball and basketball over “the wrong crowd.”

Her decision to stay on the straight path, along with her K-12 academic success, resulted in a scholarship to attend NIU. Without a clear career path in mind, however, Santillan couldn’t find her footing in DeKalb and soon left for home.

One year later, she returned as a commuter student, earning straight A’s. Her unease lingered, however, and she became “a two-time college dropout.”

“I knew that college was important, and I was trying to get myself through school,” she says, “but I hadn’t found something I was truly passionate about. I was out of school for the next seven years.”

During that time, she worked at a restaurant. In 2009, she donned the Huskie red-and-black again – and the third time was, of course, the charm.

After completing her bachelor’s degree in Physical Education, she secured a position as a graduate assistant and began work toward her master’s in Exercise Physiology.

cps-logoSantillan crossed the NIU Graduate School commencement stage on a Friday evening in May of 2014. Less than 72 hours later, on a Monday, she sat for an interview with the Chicago Public Schools. Hired on the spot, she began work immediately to complete the school year for a P.E. teacher who’d taken a leave of absence.

By the end of her temporary gig in June, a full-time position with CPS was hers.

“What I love the most is getting kids to set goals. When we work on a skill, a lot of kids think immediately that they can’t do it, or they try not to do it, but then they get very excited when they see they can do something,” Santillan says. “And when they do that in P.E., they’re going to be able to transfer that and do it another part of their life.”

Part of that philosophy – life lessons through P.E. – is a gospel evangelized by Paul Wright, NIU’s EC Lane and MN Zimmerman Endowed Professor in Kinesiology and Physical Education.

“When I supervised Yara’s secondary clinical placements for the P.E. licensure program, I found out she decided to teach because she had a deep belief in the potential of physical education and sport to have a positive influence on children,” Wright says. “In particular, she said she had a passion for reaching children and youth who might be struggling due to circumstances in their lives and their communities.”

Following the Teaching Personal and Social Responsibility model on which Wright focuses his scholarship, Santillan worked alongside her professor for several semesters in an after-school program for “at-risk” youth in a DeKalb middle school.

Her hands-on learning included promoting responsibility and tailoring programs to youth with more social and emotional challenges

Paul M. Wright

Paul Wright

“This approach really fit her existing values and commitments, but gave her some new strategies, structures and concepts to integrate into her teaching. She went on to apply these ideas, while making them her own, in her very successful career in CPS,” Wright says. “She is proof that the best theories and ideas are ones that can be put into practice.”

In her new role with CPS – leaving the gym “was one of my most difficult decisions but worth it,” she says – Santillan works with all of the district’s P.E. teachers to boost their productivity and, by extension, enhance student outcomes.

Serving as a “cultural mentor,” she ensures that the teachers are following standards, writing and implementing lesson plans, practicing concepts of Social and Emotional Learning and conducting assessment.

Meanwhile, she stresses to her teachers that P.E. is “not just inside the four walls of school” but also something that can empower students, parents and siblings through newsletters, after-school programs and family nights.

“Overall, I’ve had really positive response from the teachers,” Santillan says. “I tell them, ‘I know what you’re doing is important and meaningful, and I’m with you.’ They know I genuinely care about what they’re doing – that I care about their success, the kids’ success and that P.E. is one of the most important content areas in school.”

For her own role in extending P.E. beyond the school grounds, Santillan has volunteered with Beyond the Ball, “an organization that uses the power of sport to change lives, give hope, reclaim space and develop a culture of opportunities for youth and families in Chicago.”

She plans a 2020 run for a seat in the Illinois General Assembly. She also is contemplating a return to college for a doctorate and perhaps a career teaching in higher education.

Yara Santillan

Yara Santillan

At this point, however, her future is in the Windy City.

“I’m increasing teacher effectiveness in the City of Chicago, and I see myself doing that for quite some time,” she says. “I still have the same passion, but instead of teaching 600 students in my school, I have the opportunity to reach 381,000 students in CPS.”

Wright applauds her commitment, calling its beneficiaries fortunate. That group soon will include current students in the Department of Kinesiology and Physical Education after Santillan returns Monday, Oct. 9, as a guest speaker.

“The students she has worked with in the schools, our current students at NIU and P.E. teachers throughout Chicago are lucky to have Yara as a champion and a role model for doing what you believe is important and right, for yourself – and for others,” he says. “It’s been my pleasure to work with her and follow her success.”



Come, Look, See: Blackwell celebrates classic book series

Yvonne Johnson

Yvonne Johnson

Familiar faces – at least to those of a certain age – are taking root throughout the College of Education’s Blackwell History of Education Museum and the Learning Center.

Dick, Jane and Sally, along with their parents and pets, are the stars of a sprawling new exhibition highlighting the classic “Dick and Jane” book series that helped multiple 20th century generations learn to read.

Yvonne Johnson, a longtime Sycamore educator who holds two degrees from NIU, including a 1960 master’s in Elementary Education, graciously and generously donated her vast collection of the famous and influential books to the Blackwell.

“We want to put out as many of the books as we can, and we tried to open up as many as we could,” says Steve Builta, director of Technology Innovation and Learning Services in College of Education Technology Services. “People will remember the pictures.”

Rich Casey, instructional designer in the Learning Center, heard of the opportunity from Cindy Ditzler and Lynne M. Thomas of the NIU Libraries. With the help of the NIU Foundation, the gift was completed in November 2015.

Casey and Ditzler soon visited Johnson in her Sycamore home.

Johnson taught in a one-room school for two years after earning her NIU bachelor’s degree in Home Economics Education in 1951.

Johnson chats with DeKalb Mayor Jerry Smith.

Johnson chats with DeKalb Mayor Jerry Smith.

Her career in Sycamore’s District 427 began in 1953, when she joined the staff at West Elementary School. She closed the book on her career 58 years later, and in 2013 was inducted to the Sycamore High School Distinguished Alumni Hall of Fame.

“She showed us the collection, and I was amazed. I was thrilled,” Casey says. “I’m hoping to hear people say, ‘I remember that story.’ I’m hoping we’ve done some justice to it.”

Builta and Casey have accomplished just that, displaying books, framed images and enlarged prints throughout their facility in the lower level of Gabel Hall.

One glass case shows pages from Dick and Jane stories side-by-side with nearly identical words and illustrations of African-American siblings Mike and Pam – their family arrived in the 1960s amid the civil rights movement – or within religious school contexts.

Many cases are dressed with objects that vividly evoke the period of the books’ greatest popularity: wood clothespins, a rolling pin, a mop, an iron, a game of jacks, stuffed dolls, a baseball glove, a toy airplane.

“Frankly, ‘Dick and Jane’ is a real part of pop culture,” Builta says, “and this really is about bringing back some memories for some folks. ‘Reminisce’ is a great word. We’re giving people an opportunity to see this again.”

Dean Laurie Elish-Piper and Johnson enjoy the exhibition.

Dean Laurie Elish-Piper and Johnson
enjoy the exhibition.

“Dick and Jane” was the creation of Zerna Sharp, a reading consultant one-time kindergarten teacher who called the main characters “my children.”

According to a 1994 article in the Chicago Tribune:

It was in the late 1920s that Sharp, who died in 1981 at age 91, came up with the concept of an illustrated primer with simple text and repeated words mimicking the speech patterns of her young students.

Sharp had difficulty at first convincing Scott, Foresman’s editors to abandon the more stilted reading books of the era, most of which lacked illustrations. But when a University of Chicago authority on education, William S. Gray, endorsed her methods, the publisher embraced her “picture-story” method.

“She heard kids talking the way Dick and Jane would – ‘Look! Look! Look!’ – and thought that maybe the dialogue should reflect that kind of language,” Casey says.

“With the illustrations, she thought that maybe those would help kids understand what they were reading,” he adds. “There were illustrated primers, such as the New England Primer, but the difference was having the images mirror the action.”

“ ‘Dick and Jane’ were the first set of books that really utilized that concept,” Builta says.

dick-jane-4Regardless of the affection and nostalgia held by many 20th century children, however, the “Dick and Jane” books were not universally beloved. Legendary author Dr. Seuss, for example, said in 1983 that his “The Cat in the Hat” was “the book I’m proudest of because it had something to do with the death of the Dick and Jane primers.”

And although Casey was never a fan himself, he will acknowledge that the series made a huge impact on baby boomers, their parents and their children.

“Personally, I think that kids learned how to read in spite of ‘Dick and Jane.’ Our nuns were very big on phonics. I remember being in second-grade and trying to sound out ‘refrigerator,’ ” he says. “Nonetheless, ‘Dick and Jane’ was very successful.”

The Learning Center is open from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday and from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Friday. For more information, call (815) 753-1241 or email learningcenter@niu.edu.

Rich Casey, Johnson, Margaret Thacker and Steve Builta

Rich Casey, Johnson, Margaret Thacker and Steve Builta



Alumna Alexandra Wulbecker shares wisdom with KNPE 583

Alexandra Wulbecker

Alexandra Wulbecker

Just two years after Alexandra Wulbecker completed her days in Anderson Hall, she returned to the NIU Department of Kinesiology and Physical Education with an unexpected message for the students who are following her.

It’s OK to not know where you’re going, as long as you’re passionate about what you do and prepared to do it well.

Wulbecker, who earned an M.S.Ed. in Sport and Exercise Psychology in 2015, found employment at alma mater Hoffman Estates High School as a special education teacher’s assistant. She then began to coach volleyball, girls basketball and softball, a sport in which she also offers private lessons.

Speaking July 20 to graduate students in Jenn Jacobs’ KNPE 583 class – Psychology of Coaching – Wulbecker explained how her passion for helping athletes boost their mental game put her NIU education to work while also illuminating a different career direction.

“There is no real clear path in sports psychology. It is what you make it,” said Wulbecker, who played for the NIU Huskies softball team. “There is no right or wrong, but just what works for you.”

For Wulbecker, that has meant striving to develop a new position as a “mental training consultant” for high school athletes.

wulbecker-alexandra-softball

Alexandra Wulbecker waits for the pitch
during her NIU Huskie softball days.

Drawing from her six undergraduate and graduate years at NIU, two of which were spent guiding and comforting new Huskies and their parents as part of the Student Orientation Staff, she combined her interests and talents in counseling, psychology and sports.

Next, Wulbecker began to replicate a graduate school project in which she collaborated with athletes one-on-one for a year. Three Hoffman Estates High School student-athletes – two girls and one boy – took part.

Athletes define what they want to accomplish. They list the things they most respect. Each determines a motivational “power word” for inscription and placement somewhere frequently visible – maybe on a locker door, she said, or maybe on a shoe.

They rate themselves, complete online surveys for further personal reflection and seek the feedback of family and friends. They then examine a list of their top 24 strengths, answering questions of whether they agree, what surprised them and what they think of the input of others.

Customization is crucial, Wulbecker told the KNPE students, and organization is key.

“If the athletes don’t believe in it,” she said, “they’re not going to want to participate or put their time and energy into it.”

Volunteers for the counseling are more interested and more willing to open up than are those students who are referred, Wulbecker said, but providers who are flexible, patient and good listeners are likely to succeed with anyone.

wulbecker-alexandra-2She also offered good advice.

Make each session a conversation. Use “relatable examples” and activities suited to individual learning styles. Change things up with meeting locations and agendas. Allow athletes to vent.

“What I ultimately realized is that these teenagers just wanted to be heard,” said Wulbecker, who is about to begin study in Chicago toward a master’s degree in Counseling with a specialization in Sport and Health Psychology.

Wulbecker’s presentation also focused on her professional endeavors as a coach, including her motivational philosophies and strategies, something valuable to many of the graduate students who already are working as physical education teachers and coaches.

After earning her next degree, she will become a licensed professional counselor.

She plans to continue working with athletes, including those at the professional and collegiate levels, and hopes to complete post-graduate training that would qualify her to counsel Olympians.



Alumni Accomplishments

Congratulations to these College of Ed alums!

Mary P. Haynes

Mary P. Haynes

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

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

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

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

Ann E. Rondeau

Ann E. Rondeau

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

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

Jason Bednar

Jason Bednar

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

Heather A. Brown

Heather A. Brown

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

Lauri Haugen

Lauri Haugen

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

Ken King

Ken King

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

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



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

knpe-crms-7

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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.



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!”



63 years later, Korean War veteran finally receives education diploma

(This story originally appeared on the NIU Newsroom)

The life Robert Roy “Gus” Trantham launched here at Northern in 1949 has taken him around the world –  from serving in the Korean War as a U.S. Navy lieutenant, to conducting business in China, to raising four children in suburban Glen Ellyn. His journey came full circle when he returned to NIU Saturday to pick up the diploma he earned 63 years ago.

“Sometimes you feel like you didn’t do it if you weren’t there,” said Trantham, 85.

But he was there Saturday. With his service dog Henri, his grandson U.S. Navy Captain Michael Guare by his side, over 25 family, and the entire Convocation Center cheering him on, Trantham accepted his diploma from NIU President Doug Baker at the College of Education Commencement.

Diploma in hand, Trantham said: “This was the best day ever!”

Check out some of the coverage of Gus’ big day: