Category: LEED

Educate U.S. program gears up for another January in Houston

Nicole Morales

Nicole Morales

If Nicole Morales ever dreamed of a job other than teaching, she doesn’t remember it.

“The materials have always come really easily to me. I’ve always done well in school,” says Morales, a senior Early Childhood Education major from Rockford.

“Even when I was growing up, there were classmates of mine who came to me for help – and I always found that I was able to show them the material in a way that the teacher wasn’t able to do,” she adds. “I could shine a light in a way that wasn’t there before.”

So when the opportunity arose to get her toes wet through Educate U.S. in the Houston Independent School District last January, Morales happily took the plunge.

“When I read about Educate U.S., I knew that I would get to see what it’s like being in a first-, second- or third-grade setting and the opportunity to get a feel of a primary classroom before I had to start my clinical observation,” she says. “Getting that experience before I had to do it for school was really good.”

NIU College of Education candidates in teacher licensure and athletic training have submitted applications for the trip in January, when more than 20 will get to take their turns in Houston.

All are eager for the donor-funded, all-expenses-paid experience to view, practice and live in an out-of-state school district that hires a significant number of new teachers every year.

educate-usMore than 215,000 children are enrolled at Houston’s 284 campuses, which are home to innovative programs that include dual language schools offering immersion in cultures and languages including Mandarin Chinese, Arabic and French.

Participating pre-service teachers live in the homes of HISD administrators, gaining a unique perspective of the business side of schools.

Jeff L. McCanna, the school district’s human capital officer who visited NIU in October to recruit for the program, places a great value on NIU’s pre-service teachers.

“The opportunities students are given through the NIU College of Education really prepare them to go to large, urban school districts and to be change agents and difference makers,” he says. “Many students here at NIU are the first generation in their families to go to college – and are committed as teachers to give other kids those same opportunities.”

Although Educate U.S. is only one week – the 2017 edition takes place from Sunday, Jan. 8, through Saturday, Jan. 14 – McCanna believes that pre-service teachers who participate always grow considerably in their professional skills.

Nicole Morales and Jeff L. McCanna

Nicole Morales and Jeff L. McCanna

“Educate U.S. gives them an experience that’s really entrenched at a campus for a week in a co-teaching environment. They’re really learning theory, and they start taking that theory and putting the art into the science,” McCanna says.

“They’re differentiating their instruction when they’re working with the kids. They really get to know their kids. They’re designing lessons to meet the kids where they’re at and getting them to where they need to be,” he adds. “That week will wear you out. You’re mom, dad, coach, cheerleader and counselor.”

By Friday, he says, there are plenty of hugs, tears, goodbyes and unexpected takeaways.

“Many find a true passion for working with underserved populations. We’re an urban environment, and if they like Houston, they can get jobs here and develop the skill sets to be successful,” he says. “But they’re going to be able to go anywhere and be good with what they learn here.”

Morales, who stayed with McCanna’s family last January, would agree.

Once she put her nerves aside to teach language arts to third-graders, she picked up ideas for different instructional strategies and a “vast repertoire of multiple activities you can use to teach a skill because not every students is going to get it one way.”

“I learned not to be afraid,” Morales says. “My cooperating teacher had me watch the first day, but from the second day forward, she threw me right into the curriculum. I did a lot of the read-alouds in front of the kids. I definitely got more of a sense for what a third-grader is able to do in terms of reading and writing, and I’m feeling more capable.”

As she confidently prepares for a spring semester of student-teaching in her hometown Rockford Public Schools, she heartily endorses the Educate U.S. experience.

hisd-logo“It is a chance to maybe work with a group of students at an age level or setting that you might not get to do back home, and I still stay in touch with my cooperating teacher. If I ever have questions, I feel that she’s one of the people I can go to,” Morales says.

Working in the children in Houston was a “privilege,” she adds, telling of sweet farewell cards they presented her on her final day there.

“You feel like you really got to know the kids well in that week, and you want to know them more,” she says.

“It definitely makes you feel like you did well,” she adds. “If a student can recall an experience you shared with them, a new skill you helped them to understand or a read-aloud you gave, you really feel like you made a difference – and you know what you’re doing is working.”



Kudos! First group of Dean’s Achievement Scholarship recipients named, honored

College of Education Dean Laurie Elish-Piper chats with Lauren Leifheit, Rachel Bicksler, Anna Mangini and Jamie Hoban.

College of Education Dean Laurie Elish-Piper chats with Lauren Leifheit, Rachel Bicksler, Anna Mangini and Jamie Hoban.

Lauren Leifheit never heard a peep from the students in her first classroom.

“I’ve been interested in teaching for as long as I can remember,” says Leifheit, a pre-elementary education major from Sycamore. “Even when I was a little kid, my parents would buy me little teaching kits, and I’d teach my stuffed animals.”

Jamie Hoban, a vision major from a tiny town near Manitowoc, Wis., developed a passion for special education during her six years as a volunteer at an Association for the Developmentally Disabled summer camp.

Visual impairments, however, is an inspiration from a relative.

“My cousin is a teacher of students with vision impairments. She works for a school district, going from school to school working with the kids with visual impairments. I shadowed her and I just loved it,” Hoban says. “She gets really close with her students because she doesn’t work with all the students in a classroom. It’s great getting on that personal level with kids and really getting to see their progress.”

The two NIU College of Education freshmen and seven of their first-year classmates, all of whom are pursuing licensure as teachers, are among the inaugural group of Dean’s Achievement Scholarship recipients.

Chosen on the basis of stellar academic performance in high school, each receives a $2,000 scholarship for the 2016-17 academic year with the possibility of renewal for the next year based on grade point average.

From left: Sevyn Schuemann, Jacinda Starr, Lauren Leifheit, Rachel Bicksler, Anna Mangini and Jamie Hoban. Not pictured: Paetyn Borhart, Lee Bell and Megan Hayes.

From left: Sevyn Schuemann, Jacinda Starr, Lauren Leifheit, Rachel Bicksler, Anna Mangini and Jamie Hoban. Not pictured: Paetyn Borhart, Lee Bell and Megan Hayes.

 

Joining Leifheit and Hoban are pre-elementary education majors Rachel Bicksler, Megan Hayes, Anna Mangini and Jacinda Starr; pre-early childhood studies majors Paetyn Borhart and Sevyn Schuemann; and physical education major Lee Bell.

Student Services was looking for ways to increase recruitment efforts for COE undergraduate licensure programs. We were thrilled to be able to offer an incentive for high-achieving high school seniors to select us as their school of choice,” says Margee Myles, director of the college’s Student Services office.

“Our first group of scholarship winners represents an academically elite group,” Myles adds, “who we hope will connect to the college and who be ambassadors for our amazing programs.”

Hoban’s path to NIU also comes courtesy of her cousin, an alumna of the Department of Special and Early Education’s renowned Visual Disabilities Program.

“She loved it here, so I toured and it just felt right. It just seemed like the place for me,” Hoban says. “There are no schools in Wisconsin that offer this program, and in Wisconsin, there’s a really big need for teachers of students with vision impairments. School districts are legally required to have someone there, and there’s an extreme shortage.”

Margee Myles

Margee Myles

Receiving a Dean’s Achievement Scholarship is an exciting honor, she says.

“When I went to the meet-and-greet, it was really nice to meet some of the major people in the College of Education and get on a more personal level with them. It’s kind of a good group to get into,” she says. “I also liked meeting some of the other students who received the scholarship. You can tell they care about their grades, so it’s nice to be around people like that.”

For Leifheit, the choice of NIU was simple. It’s close to Sycamore, obviously, so she continues to live at home and commute.

But the College of Education also boasts a “great” reputation, she says.

“Once I start taking more of the education classes, I want to learn about how to diversify my lesson plans in a fun and interesting way,” says Leifheit, who also has taught at a summer camp and spent her senior year at Sycamore High School as a TA.

“I want to be someone who is able to change how the classroom works and not have it just be routine – ‘sit down and learn.’ I’m just really hoping that I can inspire kids to be the best they can be,” she adds. “I’ve had a lot of teachers in my family – my aunt works at an elementary school; my great aunt was a teacher – so I think it was passed down. Even my mom said that if she could go back to school that she’d love to be a teacher.”



Reimagined courtyard opens

courtyard-3Once home to a frightening thicket of withering trees and patchy grass, the courtyard outside the ramp between Gabel and Graham halls now offers a picturesque place of serenity.

Funded entirely by the generosity of friends of the College of Education, the work wrapped up just in time for the autumnal equinox.

Visitors can study, eat picnic lunches, wander the stepping stones or simply enjoy the sunshine and tranquility, says Betsy Hull, assistant to the dean in the College of Education. Faculty with small classes also are welcome to teach there for a change of scenery.

“It’s open to everyone,” Hull says, “and we hope that everyone uses it.”

The “Confluence Courtyard” began as an idea in February of 2015, when the former chair of the Department of Special and Early Education proposed turning the space into a “sensory garden.”

Barbara Schwartz-Bechet and Hull needed an expert in horticulture to guide them, however, and realized that resource was available at nearby Kishwaukee College.

What happened next came as a pleasant surprise.

Matt Ewert, an instructor at Kish who took their call, asked to see the space for himself. During his visit to NIU, Ewert mentioned that he taught a course in landscape design: Why not turn the courtyard planning into a class project?

courtyard-1Schwartz-Bechet and Hull happily signed on, and the creativity began to flow from Malta. “Essentially, we were their clients,” Hull says. “His students really had some phenomenal plans.”

Ewert’s Kishwaukee students “talk more about non-residential design” in the spring.

“This was a nice commercial project where we had an actual client, and we tried to make it as real as possible,” Ewert says.

“It was good for the students to be able to ask questions of someone and get that real-world experience. They had a budget. They had things to work through. They learned client communication skills. This was the first project where they could see that mattered on a larger scale. It took them a bit out of their comfort zone.”

Around that same time, however, the College of Education saw several administrative departures – Schwartz-Bechet among them – and the dream was shelved.

Understandably disappointed, Ewert still saw the potential for learning in the courtyard. He called Hull in January, wanting to know if his new students could undertake the project again, this time as no more than an assignment for his course. The courtyard’s confined space provided interesting challenges and opportunities, he explained.

The “before” picture

The “before” picture

New Dean Laurie Elish-Piper wanted more, however.

Elish-Piper liked the concept of garden transformation and was ready to turn that into reality, says Hull, who assembled a working group that included Greg Conderman, Dina Fowler, Dianne Fraedrich, Toni Tollerud and Pat Wielert.

“We told Matt, ‘Here’s the budget we have. If you can wow us again, we’ll put something into motion,’ ” she says. “His students gave us a very professional presentation. They did a nice job.”

Not wanting to choose one plan over another, the working group identified favorable elements from all of the student-designed landscapes. “We told Matt, ‘OK, now make us a plan that incorporates all of those,’ ” Hull says.

Ewert, who owns Plano-based Escapes Landscape Design Inc., did just that. NIU alum Ben Entas, owner of DeKalb-based Blue Hills Inc., was hired for the installation.

“Blue Hills did it just two days,” Ewert says. “It looks amazing. It’s a whirlwind of a difference.”

courtyard-flowersMoving forward, Ewert and his future horticulture and landscape design students will help the College of Education maintain the courtyard landscaping; they will come each fall to assist with clean-up and appropriate seasonal preparation.

Low-maintenance perennial plants were chosen to ease the upkeep, Hull says.

“They’ll get some pruning experience,” Ewert says. “They’ll also get to see how a landscape can grow up over different seasons, and the rate at which different plants mature.”

Courtyard hours are 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday and 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. An Emergency Assistance Call Box is available in the courtyard if necessary to reach the NIU Police.

courtyard-615



A look behind the College of Education’s edTPA numbers

Laura Tuma

Laura Tuma

Laura Tuma felt uneasy when she first heard about the edTPA, the new assessment she would need to pass before receiving teacher licensure in Illinois.

“It was very intimidating at first. It was very scary not knowing what to expect,” says the recent graduate of the Department of Kinesiology and Physical Education. “It was new to our professors, too, so that almost made us more intimidated. If they didn’t know a whole lot about it, how were we going to be prepared?”

She needn’t have worried.

With nurturing guidance from her professors, Tuma passed her edTPA – as did 100 percent of undergraduates in the NIU College of Education who submitted their materials in the spring of 2016.

The College of Education’s most recent numbers are well ahead of the state and national results. The college’s teacher-candidates scored higher than the national average in all but one rubric, where they tied, and higher than or equal to the state average in all rubrics.

“My professors took the bull by the horns and were able to break it down, step by step,” Tuma says. “They integrated chunks of the edTPA into all of our classes.”

Most students are “nervous at first” about the edTPA, confirms Jennifer Johnson, director of teacher preparation and development in the NIU College of Education.

“The edTPA is a high-stakes assessment that could impact your ability to get a teacher’s license. It mandates that all teachers will be highly qualified,” she says. “Attorneys, doctors and accountants have mandated licensure exams, and the addition of the edTPA adds that level of professional accountability to our field.”

Jennifer Johnson

Jennifer Johnson

For NIU, of course, the production of highly qualified teachers is a tradition.

“Our students were so successful on the edTPA because our faculty took a vested interest in supporting them,” she says. “The students practice these skills during multiple semesters, and we will continue to do that. We will keep working.”

Johnson is confident NIU’s success will endure even while the score required for passage continues to rise over the next few years. “The students in our program will receive edTPA preparation all the way through.”

Anne Gregory, chair of the Department of Literacy and Elementary Education, says College of Education teacher-education students hear “a constant message throughout their course of study” on the importance of edTPA preparation.

Meanwhile, Gregory adds, COE faculty clearly identify aspects of coursework activities and assignments “that mirror or, with a few tweaks, could better mirror the edTPA.”

Students are encouraged to set realistic goals in their preparation, to “break the tasks into manageable chunks” and to attend workshops coordinated through NIU’s Office of Educator Licensure and Preparation.

Preparing for the edTPA enables them to identify instructional needs, to study those in their NIU classrooms, to model them in student-teaching and then, Gregory says, “look to see if their students grow as well. It’s what good teachers do naturally as they gain some experience, and it’s a preview of what they will do consistently.”

Feeling edTPA stress is normal – “With any kind of licensure demand, or anything high-stakes, there’s a lot of pressure,” she says – but that anxiety soon evaporates.

“Just by getting their feet into a classroom space on ‘the other side,’ then there’s no longer that fear of the unknown,” Gregory says. “It becomes, ‘Oh, I can do this!’ ”

edtpa-words

Tuma, the newly minted alumna who now teaches physical education in suburban Yorkville at an elementary school and an intermediate school, is witnessing the value of the edTPA in her daily work.

During every-Wednesday staff meetings with her colleagues from all disciplines, collaborative discussions often focus on assessment.

“That’s what the edTPA was all about – assessments, and what you are going to do with those,” Tuma says. “That’s huge at my school. They want to see data. They want to know numbers. They want to see the success in our students, and that they’re learning.”

For teachers, she says, it means looking beyond the levels of comprehension or mastery shown through testing.

She cites as an example her own edTPA submission from her student-teaching time in nearby Rochelle, where she filmed a unit on basketball skills.

Her submission included her instruction on how to make a layup, video of the students attempting layups, peer observation and paperwork where students reported their numbers of successful layups.

That exercise – something simply required for licensure – now lives and breathes every day inside her gym in Yorkville.

If a student completes five of 10 layups in a basketball unit, what does that tell the P.E. teacher? Is five good enough? If not, why aren’t they making more shots? If no one is making more than five, what does that say about the instruction?

“I always flash back to the edTPA,” Tuma says. “It’s easy to give students a worksheet, or to tell them to do something, but it’s important what teachers take away from that assessment they gave. A teacher needs to reflect on that.”

Her alma mater Department of Kinesiology and Physical Education began piloting some of the edTPA templates in spring 2015 in advance of the fall 2015 implementation, says Jim Ressler, associate professor of physical education teacher education.

“As a program, we made the decision modify our lesson plan template to reflect language used by the edTPA, and we’ve found ways to integrate its components into our methods classes and most of our practicums,” he says.

Laura Tuma

Laura Tuma

Physical education teachers historically have organized their content around themes – skills, for example – and then plan related instructional units that might span several weeks.

Regardless of the specific daily tasks is “the domain” – psychomotor, cognitive and affective – into which physical education teachers buoy each lesson.

“All three domains are commonly in play,” Ressler says. “Our students have been trained to do this quite well planning for, and assessing, all three simultaneously.”

But “the edTPA is concerned with your ability to put together three to five lessons in succession that are coherent and that align toward a single, central focus. That central focus is the aim from the first or second minute of the first lesson to the final five minutes of the last lesson,” he says. “That’s been quite a shift for our students.”

However, he and his colleagues in KNPE see benefits to the edTPA’s philosophy and have made it “just one part of the overall process of becoming highly effective teachers after leaving our program.”

“The minds of teacher-candidates are always on the big idea, the real role of planning and how important it is to have adequate preparation to deliver lessons,” he says. “They also need ways to back up their actions of putting lesson plans together in advance, trying to teach them well and having clear systems in place to make sure the lessons went as well as they thought they did. If the lesson didn’t go well, can you reflect on why – and suggest changes?”



No edits necessary

John Evar Strid

John Evar Strid

Achieving the unimaginable is no easy task, and doing so is something most people will never know.

John Evar Strid is not among them.

The associate professor in NIU’s Department of Literacy and Elementary Education recently learned that the TESOL Journal accepted the first version of his manuscript, “The Myth of the Critical Period.”

He also was invited to join the top-tier journal’s editorial review board.

“Wow … you have done the almost impossible,” Joy Egbert, editor of the journal, wrote in an Aug. 25 email to Strid. “Nicely done.”

Strid’s article examines the “critical period hypothesis,” which holds that the learning of language becomes considerably harder following the “ideal time” to acquire that knowledge.

It was good news to one reviewer, who reported that “the article turned around my thinking. All this time, I believed that there was little use in trying to correct pronunciation with older learners.”

“The manuscript presents a seminal case that will motivate the full spectrum of (journal) readers, from TESOL researchers, teacher-educators (and) TESOL teachers,” the reviewer wrote. “Readers will concur that older learners can, and do, develop a new language efficiently or more efficiently than those acquiring a new language starting at a very young age.”

Strid, who joined the NIU College of Education in 2012, teaches applied linguistics, language development, multicultural education and bilingualism and reading.

His research interests include psycholinguistics, bilingualism, language processing, literacy, language acquisition and teaching English as second language. He earned his Ph.D. in linguistics from Northwestern University.



NIU teacher candidates spend time in Chicago and Texas classrooms

Teacher candidates visit Altus Academy

Educate Local LogoOn April 28th a group of Elementary Education teacher candidates traveled to Altus Academy in Chicago. Altus Academy provides college preparatory education to 2nd-8th grade students from historical minority groups, low-income families, and first generation college graduate households.

The NIU teacher candidates were paired with Altus Academy 2nd and 3rd grade students and spent the day mentoring, encouraging and providing one-on-one academic support. Each of the academy students were assigned a character from the Laura Ingalls Wilder novel, titled “Little House in the Big Woods”. Together the NIU teacher candidate and Altus scholar prepared a tri fold presentation board, oral presentation, costume and props to be presented and shared with otCharacter Cafeher students, administrators, parents, and guests during the culminating activity – the “Character Café”.

“It was such a great experience visiting this school because all of the kids had such high spirits and smiles on their faces. Seeing how proud all of the parents were when they came to see the projects was so heartwarming,” said participant Katie Krewer.

 

Teacher candidates gain classroom experience in Texas

Educate US LogoThe week after concluding their NIU classes in May, a group of 20 teacher licensure candidates departed for Houston Texas to teach alongside mentor teachers in the Aldine Independent School District (AISD).

Students observed in classrooms, prepared for and instructed lessons, tutored small groups, and engaged in co-teaching strategies and skills development. NIU teacher candidates further enriched their experiences participating with students, host families and community members in a variety of extracurricular and community events.

Educate USThis clinical experience in an out-of-state urban school setting is funded by the College of Education through generous gifts by our donors.

Elementary Education student Emily Svec reflected on her recent experience, “…it is so valuable. I am already learning so much. I can feel my perspective growing – I Know that I will carry this forward with me as I become a teacher.”

Veronica Riva, Early Childhood major, also was thankful for the experience, “During this time I really felt like a teacher, and I loved it!”



Donor Tea Reception

Over 150 donors, students, faculty and staff gathered last Sunday afternoon at the Barsema Alumni and Visitors Center for our annual Donor Tea event.  The event is held to thank our donors and friends for their support of the College of Education over the years.  Donors have the opportunity to meet their scholarship recipients and mingle with campus colleagues, faculty and staff while enjoying light refreshments and tea.  During a short program, Dean Elish-Piper welcomed everyone to the event and introduced a thank you video which featured several of our scholarship recipients sharing the impact scholarships and other opportunities have had on their lives.  John Sentovich, Chief Advancement Officer at the NIU Foundation, addressed the group and discussed the importance of planned giving and how much donor gifts can impact students, as evident from the recipients in the audience.  He encouraged all students to pay it forward in the future when they are in the position to give back and assist others.  Students David Carson (graduate student LEPF) and Jael Monteagudo (undergraduate student LEED) shared their personal stories of the impact that scholarships have had on their lives.  Carson explained what a positive mental boost it was to him to know that others believed in him.  Monteagudo shared how driven she was to help students succeed and how the scholarships were helping her lessen her financial burden.



NIU Literacy Event at NIU-Naperville Campus

Woman reading in libraryNorthern Illinois University’s Department of Literacy and Elementary Education (LEED) is sponsoring a Literacy Event: “Reading & Writing in the Digital Age” on Wednesday, March 23, from 5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m at the NIU-Naperville campus, 1120 E Diehl Rd, Naperville, Ill. This event provides an opportunity for alumni to reconnect with current students, alumni and faculty. Alumni are encouraged to bring colleagues and introduce them to the NIU literacy community.   In addition, teachers interested in earning the M.S. Ed. in Literacy Education with a Focus on Reading (reading specialist endorsement) are invited to attend to learn more about joining the summer 2016 cohort in Naperville.

This networking event will include a brief program by faculty and alumni. Information will also be provided to prospective students regarding the new reading cohort that will begin at NIU-Naperville in the summer of 2016.

Light refreshments will be served and door prizes given away.   For reservations, please contact Gail Schumacher at gschumacher@niu.edu or 815-753-7948. Visit the department website at http://www.cedu.niu.edu/leed/index.shtml.



Study education, culture in Japan

JapanProfessors Stephen Tonks (College of Education), Helen Nagata (College of Visual and Performing Arts), and John Bentley (College of Liberal Arts and Sciences) will direct a Japanese culture, history, art and education study abroad program from May 16-29, 2016.

The program, which will take place in Western Japan using Yamaguchi City as a base, is open to NIU students of any major who are interested in Japanese language, culture, history, art and/or education. Through guided tours and lectures, students will visit numerous cities and sites including schools, universities, ancient temples, museums, Hagi (an old castle town) and Yuda Natural Hot Springs.

Interested students should visit the NIU Study Abroad Office (SAO) website and search for “Japan” to apply online. The deadline for applications is Feb. 29, 2016. The application process requires a $200 fee/deposit. The NIU program cost of the trip is $3,580. For more details, contact the SAO office at (815) 753-0700 or niuabroad@niu.edu.