Category: LEPF

DACA-ready: NIU College of Ed prepares teachers empowered to advocate for all students

Cynthia Taines

Cynthia Taines

When President Trump acted this fall to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy, Cynthia Taines immediately looked beyond the inflamed political discourse.

Taines, an associate professor in the NIU Department of Leadership, Educational Psychology and Foundations, thought instead of the youngest of children, of adolescents and, naturally, their teachers.

“Undocumented students disclose their status to people they trust,” Taines says, “and it seems to me that it’s a a pretty common experience that undocumented students are talking to their teachers.”

She has seen it firsthand from teachers and students in Chicago and the north suburbs, thanks to her work with the Metropolitan Community Project. She has seen it in DeKalb as well, thanks to guest appearances in her classes from DREAM Action NIU and the CHANCE Program.

And, Taines says, she has seen that some of the future teachers in her courses aren’t personally familiar with the changing political landscapes that challenge undocumented children in U.S. schools.

“Many of them don’t think that they know anyone who’s undocumented,” Taines says.

For that reason, she makes sure that all of her students understand the gravity of the situation and its impact on the role they soon will play as professional educators.

“I bring real-life voices – their fellow Huskies, their fellow students – who look and sound like any college student. Not all disclose that they’re undocumented, or say that they have family member who are, but some do. They’re really brave,” she says.

“They talk through their struggles, their strengths and where they found support, and it’s often from friendly approachable people in schools, like teachers and educators,” she adds. “I’m trying to encourage empathy and some sort of moral response that doesn’t necessarily come out of a less reflective place or from parroting things you might hear on the news. I’m making this more human and more real.”

James Cohen

James Cohen

Her approach reflects and reinforces a deep-seated philosophy of the NIU College of Education, which proudly stands for educational equity and access for all. The college strongly believes that education is a human right, and that all students can succeed.

James Cohen, an associate professor in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction, enthusiastically shares those principles.

“Over 70 percent of the American population believes that DACA should be continued because they see that you can’t punish kids for the choices their parents made,” says Cohen, who teaches courses in multicultural and bilingual education and was an organizer of NIU’s Social Justice Summer Camp this past summer for K-12 educators.

Students in his classes learn about the injustices that exist in society, including institutionalized and systemic racism. They also are taught to view students from a “strength model,” where children feel welcome, respected and motivated to work, rather than from a “deficit model.”

“If you look at how our society is structured, it’s structured for people who are in power. It’s not structured for people who have brown or black skin, who don’t speak English as a native language and especially not for people who don’t have legal documentation to be here,” he says.

“In my classroom, I have students doing a lot of reading. They read about what it means to be an undocumented immigrant and what it means to live a live without documentation,” he adds. “We discuss it, and we build empathy. We don’t build sympathy. Sympathy is, ‘Oh, I feel bad for you.’ Empathy is, ‘I need to do something about this.’ ”

Cohen makes sure that his future teachers understand, and are ready to fulfill, their role as “advocates who actually act and don’t sit back and do nothing.”

“There’s a concept called social mirroring. If you belong to an ethnic group – which we all do – and society views your certain group as X, Y or Z, it’s very difficult to not believe that you are X, Y or Z,” he says.

“As teacher-advocates, our students need to advocate for their students so that they do not believe in all of these negative stereotypes that float around in our society,” he adds. “If you start believing that you’re lazy, or you start believing that you’re a troublemaker, those can turn into self-fulfilling prophecies. You might drop out of school, get into trouble, join a gang or believe that school is not meaningful.”

Sandy Lopez

Sandy Lopez

Sandy Lopez, assistant to the director at NIU’s Center for Latino and Latin American Studies, is counting on NIU College of Education graduates to make a positive difference for current and future generations.

Around 4.5 million K-12 students currently in the United States are U.S.-born with undocumented parents, Lopez says. Another 1 million are undocumented with undocumented parents; of those, 65,000 graduate each year from high school.

Between 7,000 and 13,000 will matriculate into higher education, which is only 20 percent at best.

“It’s important for teachers to work with these students to let them know that there are opportunities to continue and to go to college,” she says. “Otherwise, these students will disengage.”

Immigrants bring many strengths to their classrooms – “They’re balancing two worlds. They’re bilingual. They’re bicultural,” Lopez says – and are resilient students, many of whom have learned to advocate for themselves, their families and their communities.

Yet they worry about their families being separated. They worry about being deported. They worry that their schools will report them, something that can cause anxiety rather than concentration in the classroom as well as mistrust of principals and other administrators.

Many children also serve as translators on behalf of their families, juggling critical interactions with everyone from landlords to doctors along with their nightly homework.

Teachers must strive for sensitivity, Lopez says, creating a safe space where children can find support while they share their fears and their successes.

“It’s so critical that these kids know that they’re not alone, and that their school is not going to turn them in,” she says. “They have no reason to divulge that information to anyone.”

Colleges are not immune, she adds.

DREAM Action NIUFollowing President Trump’s announcement, Lopez says, “I had a student who came into the center, shaking. She was having a hard time breathing. I said, ‘I didn’t realize you were undocumented.’ She said, ‘I’m not. My parents are.’ ”

Stories like that motivate Taines and, she believes, her students.

“Educational equity drives me,” Taines says. “That’s the reason I got into education. It’s a large piece of how we can achieve social equality, because education is one of the main drivers of opportunity. Just because there’s a language issue doesn’t mean that a student is not going to achieve or achieve highly.”

Taines accentuates her objective by sending students to research the language-learning programs of the high schools from which they graduated.

“Every time, I get some initial pushback: ‘My school doesn’t have that program. We didn’t have any kids in my school who were language-learners.’ I say, ‘I just want you to look. It’s possible that’s changed.’ The students come back and say, ‘I didn’t know we had this,’ ” she says.

“They realize they had only a slice of understanding about the institution as a whole,” she adds. “Their communities are changing quickly. The suburbs are become more diverse. Thinking through these issues, having them think through the issues and connecting to them on a human basis, will help them serve their future students.”

Cohen makes his point through a role-playing exercise where he is “the angry man on the plane” who’s in favor of mass deportation. The students must persuade him otherwise.

“It’s amazing. You can see their wheels turning,” he says. “You can see how they’re trying to convince me that what I’m saying is based on ideology and not on facts. They put me in the shoes of an immigrant student. They make it more relevant to me. They try to convince me that bilingual education and equal treatment of undocumented immigrants are the right, ethical and moral choices.”

DREAM Action NIU

DREAM Action NIU is a student-led organization that works in collaboration with the Latino Resource Center to raise awareness of the situations undocumented students face in the U.S. and, in particular, on campus.

Students gain the solid foundation for their arguments during every class period of the semester, he adds.

“My bottom line is that teachers have to be thinking about their students and less about themselves. We can’t blame our students for the context or the predicament they’re in. I want my students to learn the facts so that they can teach the facts,” Cohen says.

And it’s working, he says.

“We are turning out teachers who understand the systems and hierarchies of injustice that exist. We are producing teachers who know how to advocate for kids. We are producing teachers who are good pedagogists. I’m very proud of being a faculty member in the NIU College of Education and of all the good work we are doing here.”



Ed Psych professor encourages future teachers to ‘stop thinking of your students as students’

dugas-1

Special Education major Ashley Manor (left) questions a classmate
about her 16-year-old self before permitting her entrance
to the educational space known as Dugas Island.

Ashley Manor stands just outside the door of Graham Hall 336, facing a line of her classmates.

Each must answer her question before walking into the classroom. “If you could go back and talk to your 16-year-old self,” Manor asks again and again, “what would you say?”

For most of her respondents, that journey through time is not a long one. They’re college undergraduates, after all, barely removed from their teenage years. For Professor Daryl Dugas, who also must offer a reply to gain admission to his own classroom, the well of wisdom from which to draw is at least a couple decades deeper.

Dugas begins each semester on the other side of this brief inquisition, posing questions to his students as they queue up in the hallway, backpacks still slung over their shoulders.

He considers the greeting process integral to the “holistic learning” process, regarding his question-and-answer ritual as an invitation to enter an educational space known as Dugas Island.

“My philosophy of teaching is that it’s not just about delivering content. I’m creating an environment,” says Dugas, who teaches in the Department of Leadership, Educational Psychology and Foundations.

dugas-6

Daryl Dugas, right, works to make sure students feel a sense
of ownership in his Educational Psychology classes.

“To really learn, you have to expose yourself, and that’s a really vulnerable activity. My students and I are building relationships together to support them through challenges. It’s very enriching,” he adds. “The underlying model of what I’m doing is a process based on principles of group dynamics. We’re not just a group of individuals. We are a group together. We are in a process together. We are growing together.”

When students arrive for the first day of the semester, they find the classroom door closed and locked. Dugas eventually appears with the “key” – a question they must answer in order to enter.

“I might say, ‘What’s something, other than education, that you’re passionate about?’ The questions evolve over the next few days,” he says. “I’ve had students tell me, ‘I thought you were crazy on the first day,’ or ‘I didn’t know what to make of you on the first day.’ ”

But through their answers, he says, he can get to know them better. He can watch momentary anxiety at the door unlock positive learning experiences on Dugas Island, to which they have “a temporary resident agreement.”

Students such as Manor, a junior Special Education major from Mokena, volunteer to serve as the greeters as the semester progresses.

That’s by design, Dugas says. “Within the ritual, something was getting lost when I always did it. There needs to be the ritual, but it needs to change as well,” he says.

“The most important thing is your relationship with students, not your content.”

“The most important thing is your relationship
with students, not your content.”

An in-class brainstorming exercise years earlier – something integral to Dugas Island – provided a strategy. “A student asked me, ‘Why don’t we ask you a question?’ I said, ‘That’s a phenomenal idea. This is your class, too, not just mine.’ Students really feel a sense of ownership.”

Dugas, an assistant professor in the Educational Psychology program, teaches classes in child and adolescent development as well as classroom management.

His goal is to instill in students that effective teaching-and-learning relationships must go beyond lecture, PowerPoint, note-taking and tests. He strives to elevate his curriculum in ways that prompt students to draw connections between the classroom and their lives.

“The point of my class is to stop thinking of your future students as merely students but as developing human beings,” he says. “A major problem with our educational system is that it deals mostly with curriculum content and forgets about the young people we are supposed to be nurturing toward adulthood.”

His path to this realization began in his previous career as a high school chemistry and physics teacher; he taught for six years in suburban Downers Grove and four years in a Chicago charter school.

Plagued by misgivings of his own efficacy with the teens, and whether he was teaching them things they actually would need to know as adults, his life changed when he discovered a mentor: a social worker steeped in the philosophy of group dynamics.

Through work with his mentor, he began asking himself questions about his own personal development: Am I an adult? Am I a man? He also jumped at the chance to help his mentor lead an after-school program for teens.

dugas-3

When he began incorporating those experiences into his chemistry classes – for example, he would spend the first two weeks of class not teaching content but instead establishing the learning environment – he earned a scolding from the principal.

Content, he was told, took precedence. That was his job.

“I feel like now I’m trying to deliver a counter-message to that: The most important thing is your relationship with students, not your content,” he says. “We shouldn’t pretend that all of our content is useful and that you’ll need it; rather, we should focus more on building connections with our students, and through that share them with them our own excitement about our content.”

As a teacher-educator, Dugas believes it’s vital to foster in his classrooms the kind of environment he encourages future teachers to cultivate in their own classes.

He shows his NIU students that content delivery is enhanced by prompting a sharing of personal stories, from both students and teacher, that relate to the lessons.

Such conversations lead to “feeling connected, a very valuable experience to have with one another.”

dugas-5“Everyone who wants to be a teacher wants to make a difference in students’ lives, and very few people talk explicitly about how to do that,” Dugas says. “I’m trying to demonstrate to my students that it is possible to create a unique, connective experience in their classes, but that it requires hard work.”

The benefits, he says, go beyond just having a pleasant time. “Through our work as a group, future teachers can begin to examine their own blind spots,” he says. “You can’t guide someone through a developmental process you haven’t been through yourself.”

His students also gain experience in pushing themselves outside of their comfort zones in how they participate and share in class. “Doing this in my class helps them build empathy for their own future students,” he says, “and how difficult this can be.”

Young people will respond, he says.

“Research on resilience shows that adolescents need adults other than their parents to look up to, an adult who’s in their corner – one caring, competent adult who took an interest in their life,” he says. “When I began working with my mentor, I realized that I needed to have something to share with my students other than chemistry. I needed a caring ear and words of wisdom. Once I began sharing that, it meant the world to them.”

His classroom at NIU illustrates his spirit and his philosophy. Stuffed animals, including an owl, a gorilla, a “Where the Wild Things Are” creature, Winnie the Pooh, Tigger, as well as various tchotchkes, are stationed on desks throughout.

Meanwhile, he hopes to embody the teacher that he wants his students to become rather than lecturing them on how to do what he does.

dugas-8In setting up an Oct. 3 lesson on the development of romantic relationships in adolescence, he asked the students to set the morning’s framework.

For his part, he prompted them to set individual goals of how many times they would speak up during the next hour and how many times they would actively encourage others to share ideas. “Remind me to stop two minutes early so we can check in on that,” he told them.

Students broke into five groups to articulate their understanding of the idea of emotions as biological programs, cultural scripts and cognitive assessments; later, each group shared its thinking and opened the floor to comments.

As students shared their own personal stories and examples, Dugas also joined in to spin anecdotes about his young daughter that fit the discussion perfectly. It provided a good model: “The emotional responses you show will teach your students,” he told the class.

The students later played a game – one facilitated and modeled by a fellow classmate – that offered another example of how to connect students and teacher beyond academic content.

When the class ended, Dugas did not call out reminders of upcoming assignments or tests as might seem customary when students are packing up and heading for the exits.

“Thank you, as always,” he said, instead, “for a great conversation.”



LEPF doctoral student leads multilingual efforts in Uruguay

Aldo Rodriguez

Aldo Rodriguez

Languages are deeply valued in Uruguay, where multiple tongues beyond the native Spanish are the norm.

“Uruguay is a country of immigrants,” Aldo Rodriguez, a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Leadership, Educational Psychology and Foundations, says of his homeland.

“We have more than 120,000 Italian citizens living in Uruguay. We have British people. We have Spanish people,” Rodriguez adds. “We have German, Swiss and Portuguese cities settled by immigrants from those countries.”

People living near the country’s border with Brazil are generally also fluent in Portuguese, which is considered a regional language.

And everyone is expected to know English, which the country regards an international language. Students begin learning English in fourth-grade.

The man in charge of advancing the government’s language ambitions is none other than Aldo Rodriguez, the recently appointed national director of Second Language Policy for the Uruguay National Board of Education.

“By 2030, we want a multilingual country,” he says. “For more than 40 years, our secondary school students have learned French, Italian and English. Authorities believe in the neurological benefits of learning multiple languages.”

Schools in this country should share that ambition, he adds.

uruguay-flag“I think U.S. schools will benefit by adopting these types of policies, first and foremost for the multicultural heritage the country has,” Rodriguez says. “It’s outstanding how diverse and culturally rich the United States is. Learning multiple languages will make people understand more about other cultures and people. When you learn a language, you learn its culture.”

Rodriguez, who is living and working in Uruguay while he completes his NIU dissertation, is responsible for crafting policy for all levels of education from first-grade through college.

His professional background fuels his passion for the job. He earned a bachelor’s degree in teaching English as a Second Language, a career he began in 1998. He’s also mentored dozens of teachers, designed educational materials, delivered workshops and seminars and served as the director of an institute for second languages.

Teaching also drives his Educational Psychology dissertation, which focuses on persistence in adult secondary school contexts.

“I started working at the adult schools. The population of this school is very unique since 100 percent of the students went through a negative experience with education, and they had to drop out of traditional education,” he says.

“Dropping out is something really common in this context. Sometimes you start with a class of 50 students, and only six or seven finish the school year,” he adds. “My questions were, ‘Who is successful? Who finished school? Why?’ ”

Jorge Jeria and Stephen Tonks

Jorge Jeria and Stephen Tonks

Coming to NIU in 2010 on a Fulbright grant to pursue his master’s in Adult and Higher Education opened many doors.

“When I read the profiles of the professors I was going to have, and the expertise they had on adult education, I just loved it,” Rodriguez says.  “I had Dr. Jorge Jeria as my first mentor, and I think I couldn’t have made it to the end of the master’s course without his support.”

Staying at NIU for his Ph.D. brought the mentorship of Stephen Tonks, for whom Rodriguez became a three-year research assistant. Before returning home in 2015, he also worked as a TA and participated in a search committee.

“My experience at the LEPF department was one of the best in my life,” he says. “All the people who work there are just great, and they made me feel at home.”



CoE, NIU make good showing at MWERA annual conference

mwera-logoThirty-two NIU faculty, students, staff and College of Education alumni presented at the 2017 Annual Meeting of the Mid-Western Educational Research Association (MWERA), held from Oct. 18 to Oct. 20 in Evanston.

MWERA is a regional educational research association modeled after the structure of the preeminent American Educational Research Association.

The MWERA mission is threefold:

  • to disseminate educational research conducted in the central states and provinces of North America;
  • to promote a collegial research culture in the region; and
  • to provide a forum for mentoring the research skills of graduate students and junior faculty members.

While MWERA featured presentations by affiliates of NIU’s Department of Leadership, Educational Psychology and Foundations, Department of Counseling, Adult, and Higher Education, Department of Curriculum and Instruction and Department of Psychology, faculty and graduate students from the Department of Educational Technology, Research and Assessment were particularly involved in the conference.

Associate Dean David Walker and Associate Professor Cynthia Campbell, both of the Department of Educational Technology, Research and Assessment, are past presidents of the organization.

David Walker and Cynthia Campbell

David Walker and Cynthia Campbell

Many NIU faculty and students also regularly serve as session chairs and session dscussants during the meeting, and in other leadership roles within the organization such as webmaster, Association Council members and board members.

This year, several faculty also were recognized for their service to the organization in relation to recruitment of graduate students.

Current and past NIU affiliates who presented at the 2017 conference include Abdullah Albalawi, Farraj Alshehri, Youself Alshrari, Patricia Barton, Cynthia Campbell, Raye Chiang, Brad Cramer, Dustin Derby*, Anne Edwards, Khalifa Elgosbi, Joseph Ehrmann, Daniel Feller, Tawanda Gibson, Christopher Gonzales, Karen Higgs, Mary Hoyt and Naif Jabli.

Others were Ryan Kopatich, Melanie Koss, Nicholas Leonard, Rakez Mahmoud AL-ararah, Cornelius McKenna*, Jaclyn Murawska*, Elyzia Powers, Todd Reeves, Thomas Smith, Amy Stich, Tracey Stuckey-Mickell*, Victoria Therriault, Stephen Tonks, David Walker and Scott Wickman.

* Alumnus of the NIU College of Education



CoE remembers Joe Saban

Joseph M. Saban

Joseph M. Saban

Joseph M. Saban, who taught educational leadership courses in the Department of Leadership, Educational Psychology and Foundations, died Sept. 29 in Lakewood, Ill. He was 70.

Saban came to the NIU College of Education from Community High School District 155 in suburban McHenry County.

Beginning his career there in 1973 as a science teacher, he later became the district’s director of Business and Finance and eventually was named assistant superintendent for Finance and Staff Development.

His nine years as superintendent, from 1993 through his 2002 retirement, included the construction of Prairie Ridge High School.

The four-time NIU alum then taught at his alma mater from 2002 to 2013. His degrees included an Ed.D. in Curriculum and Instruction and bachelor’s and master’s degrees in biology.

“Joe was a gifted educator who eagerly shared his knowledge and professional expertise with graduate students in our college,” said Carolyn Pluim, chair of the Department of Leadership, Educational Psychology and Foundations. “Many in the Illinois educational community were touched by Joe’s kind and generous spirit.”

In 2007, while Saban continued to teach and advise working superintendents in pursuit of doctoral degrees and other educators who were seeking superintendent’s certificates, he and another retired superintendent shared the interim leadership of the North Boone School District.

His brief return to public schools felt comfortable: “I’ve never really left,” he said at the time. “I stay current with that stuff. It’s part of my duties.”

A memorial service was held Oct. 5 in Crystal Lake. He is survived by his wife, Bonnie; five children; and six grandchildren.



Merritt speaker to explore ‘joy of discovery’ during Oct. 19 talk

Eugene F. Provenzo Jr.

Eugene F. Provenzo Jr.

Don’t try to pigeonhole Eugene F. Provenzo Jr. It won’t work.

The professor emeritus from the University of Miami’s School of Education is a Renaissance man whose interests – and qualifications – reach far beyond his title.

“By way of my background, I’m a much more interdisciplinary scholar than most social foundations professors. I’ve got degrees in history, philosophy and history of education,” Provenzo says. “I branched off fairly early in my career, and I started looking at a much wider range of topics than I think is considered normal.”

What Provenzo truly enjoys is finding “the patterns that connect” the seemingly obscure and unrelated; his academic scavenger hunts are lined with clues in toys, fables, photographs, marine life, world’s fairs, computers, poetry, science, video games, books, puppets and more.

Uncovering those links reveal “a much more complex and interesting universe,” he says.

“I’m trying to get people thinking and understanding that there’s a deeper level of connection with things,” Provenzo says, “and if we paid more attention to these things, we’d be more at ease with the world.”

Provenzo is the 2017 recipient of the James and Helen Merritt Distinguished Service Award for Contributions to Philosophy of Education, an award given by the Department of Leadership, Educational Psychology and Foundations.

He will deliver the annual Merritt Address, titled “An Educational Cabinet of Curiosities: 40 Years of Research in the Philosophy, History and Sociology of Education,” at 4 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 19, in the Holmes Student Center Skyroom. A reception begins at 3:30 p.m.

Helen and James Merritt

Helen and James Merritt

Named for the late James Merritt, philosopher of education and professor in the College of Education, and the late Helen Merritt, artist and professor of art history in the College of Visual and Performing Arts, the series spotlights scholars who have deeply influenced educational thought and practice.

All are welcome to attend; email lsassone@niu.edu for more information.

“Professor Provenzo embodies the Merritts’ commitment to the creative development of the function of philosophy of education in teacher education,” says Leslie A. Sassone, an associate professor in Foundations of Education. “With the changing climate of higher education, Dr. Provenzo will also appeal to students across the university who struggle with making meaning of their own schooling, as well as the current state of public education.”

Provenzo named his presentation after a centuries-old cultural endeavor in which he is a modern and enthusiastic participant.

“Going back to the late Renaissance, naturalists and art collectors – people sort of interested in the world, geography, things like that – began to collect objects together in large exhibit rooms. They would have collections of books, geological specimens from the natural world, paintings, sculpture. It was really the beginning of the first scientific laboratories,” he says.

“What I have done for this talk, and maybe it’s because I’m a serious artist, is that I’ve thought about this in terms of an exhibition hall,” he adds. “Where I live in Virginia, there is an extremely strong artistic tradition of landscape paintings – a lot look alike – whereas someone like myself is doing 10 or 15 things that may not look like they come from the same artist.”

cameraHe plans to walk his audience through, and around, a dozen of his fascinations and their broader meanings, from a 19th century photograph of a young, female teacher on the frontier of Idaho who’s harboring a dark secret to a look at how early advances in printing parallel the computer revolution.

These finds and other “crazy stuff that show up in the same context” come from trips into libraries and rare book rooms, where he pokes though the shelves for “what’s odd, what’s pushed out, what’s in a corner.”

When books or magazines pique his curiosity, he pages through them looking for places to start or continue an intellectual journey.

Educators should adopt and espouse his philosophy of curiosity to the practice of teaching-and-learning, he says.

“I’ve come to realize that we might be on a kind of dead-end approach to teaching,” he says. “We’re taking the joy out of things – the joy of discovery, the joy of creating things – and that’s a good bit of what education should be about. I always think that this stuff is self-evident. We need less testing and more creative play.”

Consequently, he will encourage teachers to do more than “teach to the test.”

“What do we need to know to be educated? Johann Sebastian Bach? Yes, but we also ought to know who Led Zeppelin is. Transgender? Lipstick lesbian? Those words maybe as important as a lot of other terms,” Provenzo says.

“If you ask me who’s more important in terms of social history – Queen Elizabeth or Queen Latifah? – I’d say that we maybe need to know both of those people,” he adds. “That’s probably a fairly radical point of view, but I’d like people to be more critical and inclusive.”



CoE welcomes new faculty, staff

gargoyle

Olive Goyle says, “Hello!”

Twelve new faculty members are joining the College of Education this fall, including a few familiar faces.

The roster includes Melanie Walski, who has been a visiting assistant professor in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction, and Jenn Jacobs, who has taught and served as a Research Fellow in the Department of Kinesiology and Physical Education while earning her NIU doctorate in Educational Psychology.

Fatih Demir and Dongho Kim, new assistant professors in the Department of Educational Technology, Research and Assessment, were on campus in May as keynote speakers for the LEARN-IT conference.

Dan Oest, who taught Ed.S. courses last year as an adjunct professor in the Department of Leadership, Educational Psychology and Foundations, now has joined the faculty.

“A college is defined by the strength of its faculty, so I am thrilled to welcome so many amazing new faculty to the College of Education this year,” Dean Laurie Elish-Piper said.

“We were able to hire a large group of incredibly accomplished, motivated and productive faculty who will help us enhance our programs, expand our research productivity, build engaged learning opportunities and teach and mentor our students.”

Other new employees this fall include Alicia Anderson, who is administrator of Finance and Operations Analysis; Tony Calderala, academic advisor in the Department of Kinesiology and Physical Education; Claire Duvall, online program support specialist in the Department of Educational Technology, Research and Assessment; and Judy Schneider, director of Advancement.

Here is a closer look at this fall’s new members of the College of Education family.

Department of Counseling, Adult and Higher Education

Melissa Fickling

Melissa Fickling

Melissa Fickling comes to NIU by way of Memphis, Tenn. She completed her doctoral work in Counseling and Counselor Education in 2015 at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.

Her primary research interests are focused on the intersections of work, mental health and meaning.

She has practiced professional counseling in higher education, community and private practice settings, and is a licensed clinical professional counselor in Illinois. She is a member of the editorial review board for the Journal of College Counseling and active in leadership for the National Career Development Association.

“Melissa has a wealth of professional experience that she will bring to the classroom: seven years of work in the Chicagoland area before she became a professor. Her research interest in the intersection of work and mental health is really a great help to our university because the clients our graduates work with in this area often are dealing with issues of underemployment or employment.” — Suzanne Degges-White, chair

Dana Isawi

Dana Isawi

Dana Isawi holds a doctorate degree in counselor education and supervision from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and a master’s degree in school counseling from Marymount University.

She has clinical experience in the school and community settings both in the United States and internationally. She has experience in intervention development, implementation and evaluation.

Her research and presentations focus on multicultural issues in counseling, play therapy and children, especially survivors of trauma and interventions to enhance career and college readiness of students. She has experience in teaching a variety of graduate courses in school counseling, mental health counseling and play therapy and filial therapy as well as supervising graduate students.

“Dana’s area of specialty is trauma, especially refugee traumatization. This is a growing area of interest and need because of what the current political climate is doing to people who are refugees or immigrants. She also has critical counseling experience mainly working with children as well as children from very diverse backgrounds, which is a very necessary piece for our students.” — Degges-White

Xiaodan Hu

Xiaodan Hu

Xiaodan Hu obtained her Ph.D. in Higher Education Administration and Policy from the University of Florida in Gainesville, where she served as a research fellow at the Institute of Higher Education. She also holds a master’s degree in Student Affairs Administration in Higher Education from Texas A&M University.

She teaches courses related to community college leadership; finance and policy; and higher education administration.

Her research typically employs quantitative methods to examine the impact of state policies and institutional initiatives on colleges and universities, focusing on educational equity issues of historically underserved students and non-traditional students. She also recently has written on the impact of performance-based funding, the pathway of upward transfer, and gender differences in STEM degree attainment.

“Xiaodan brings a depth of experience in community college leadership. While she was at the University of Florida, she was the program director of the Community College Futures Assembly, an organization devoted to enhancing the professional skills of community college executives. Finding someone with community college experience, combined with her quantitative research expertise, is needle-in-a-haystack.” — Degges-White

Department of Curriculum and Instruction

Melanie Walski

Melanie Walski

Melanie Walski holds a Ph.D. Curriculum & Instruction: Language, Literacy & Culture from the University of Illinois at Chicago and an M.A.Ed. (Reading Specialist) from Dominican University.

She teaches courses in Elementary School Developmental Reading Programs, Emerging Literacy and Beginning Reading Instruction through Age 8 and Organizing for Effective Elementary Reading Instruction.

Her research interests focus on the intersection of literacy and policy at the elementary level. Her research centers on how literacy instructional practice is affected by policy, and what aspects of policy are most influential on teachers’ sense-making of literacy teaching and learning. She is also interested in emergent literacy curriculum development.

“The Department of Curriculum and Instruction is fortunate that Melanie Walski is joining us. As a former classroom teacher and certified reading specialist, Melanie brings both experience and valuable expertise to her role in many of our programs. Her research interests in policy and literacy will help to improve literacy education, policy and research at the local, state and national levels. Melanie also will help us offer our students superior content knowledge, methods development and theory-to-practice approach to prepare them to become outstanding educators.” — Donna Werderich, acting chair

Department of Educational Technology, Research and Assessment

Fatih Demir

Fatih Demir

Fatih Demir graduated in 2009 from the University of Baltimore, earning the degree of Doctor of Communications Design. In August 2015, he joined to the School of Information Science and Learning Technologies at the University of Missouri as postdoctoral fellow.

Demir teaches courses in Human-Computer Interaction and User Experience Research and Design.

He has spent years teaching and researching Human Computer Interaction; Usability; Interaction Design; Social Media Analysis; and E-government Design. He has conducted research at the Information Experience Lab using remote and mobile eye tracking systems. He also worked with Mizzou faculty, staff and graduate assistants on various projects in the realm of journalism, education, medicine and computer science.

“Fatih will enhance our curriculum and research in the area of user experience. Back in the old days, we talked about usability. Now we talk about user experience. For everything we design, we need to make sure that our users – our learners – accept it and are willing to enjoy it. It’s about understanding that designing is not just about designing something you like; it’s about designing something everyone likes while making sure that everyone can learn from it.” — Wei-Chen Hung, chair

Dongho Kim

Dongho Kim

Dongho Kim earned his Ph.D. in Learning, Design and Technology in May from the University of Georgia-Athens, where he worked with Robert Branch on research related to student engagement and online learning. He holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Education from Seoul National University.

Kim will continue to build his research at NIU while teaching courses in interaction design and “learning analytics.”

Published in a number of prestigious journals, he won first place for Outstanding Journal Article Award in the Distance Learning Division of the AECT 2016 conference for his most recent article in The Internet and Higher Education. He also received a two-year research fellowship grant (2016-18) from the Hewlett Foundation to continue his research.

“ ‘Learning analytics’ is one of the fields that is growing in instructional technology because it is important to make sense of data and to use that data to enhance learning and training. Technology and data are so widely available now that sometimes it is difficult to understand the data, and it is very challenging to interconnect all this data to find better solutions for learning and training. Dongho is the person who will help us address that need. He knows how to bring those different types of data together to design curriculum that improves learning.” —Hung

Department of Kinesiology and Physical Education

Clayton Camic

Clayton Camic

Clayton L. Camic earned a Ph.D. in Exercise Physiology from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in 2011. He also holds a bachelor’s degree in Exercise Science from Morehead State University (2001) and a master’s degree in Exercise Physiology from the University of Wyoming (2003).

Camic will teach courses in Applied Physiology of Exercise (KNPE 452), Neuromuscular Aspects of Performance (KNPE 514) and Bioenergetics (KNPE 652).

His main research interests include the evaluation of neuromuscular function and fatigue using electromyography as well as nutritional supplements as ergogenic aids.

“Clay has established a record over the last several years of becoming a leading scholar in the Exercise Physiology area, including more than 50 refereed publications in the last five years. He truly enhances the scholarship for students in our Kinesiology program.” — Chad McEvoy, chair

Jenn Jacobs

Jenn Jacobs

Jenn Jacobs, who earned her Ph.D. in Educational Psychology from NIU, also holds a master’s degree in Sport Psychology from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and a bachelor’s degree in Kinesiology from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

She has taught courses in psychological aspects of sport and exercise, measurement for evaluation, psychology of sport and exercise, psychology of coaching and the culture and society of sports.

Her research interests include sport-based youth development, transfer of life skills, sport for social change and social and emotional learning. In 2012, she received a fellowship from NIU’s Collaborative on Early Adolescence to support youth learning and development by working with Paul Wright on the Teaching Personal and Social Responsibility model.

“Jenn is someone who has been here at NIU for some time, working on her Ph.D. and collaborating on research with Paul Wright and other KNPE colleagues. She’s has begun to establish a record as a strong teacher and scholar with great potential in both of those areas.” — McEvoy

Claire Schaeperkoetter

Claire Schaeperkoetter

Claire Schaeperkoetter, who hails from Columbia, Mo., double-majored in Psychology and Spanish at Washington University in St. Louis. She received both her Master’s and PhD in Sport Management from the University of Kansas.

Schaeperkoetter has worked in the ticket office for the Miami Heat and the athletics compliance offices at the University of Miami and the University of Kansas. While pursuing her Ph.D., she served an instructor of record for several different Sport Management undergraduate courses at the University of Kansas.

Her research typically relies on the intersection of organizational behavior, organizational theory and sport finance to analyze decisions of sport leaders, sport employees and sport participants.

“Claire has already become nationally known for her scholarship during her doctoral studies at the University of Kansas, and she will really help to grow our Sport Management offerings. She is an excellent teacher with great research potential.” — McEvoy

Emerson Sebastião

Emerson Sebastião

Emerson Sebastião, a visiting assistant professor, earned a Ph.D. in Kinesiology from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2015. He then received a fellowship from the National Multiple Sclerosis Society to complete a post-doctoral training in Rehabilitation Sciences in the same institution.

He joined the Department of Kinesiology and Community Health of the University of Illinois as a visiting assistant professor in 2016, serving as the director of the Exercise Neuroscience Research Laboratory and teaching courses related to exercise psychology and physical activity research methods.

Sebastião studies elderly and clinical populations by exploring factors that influence physical activity as well as creative ways to promote physical activity among older adults and persons with multiple sclerosis.

“Emerson has outstanding training from the University of Illinois. His research is a great fit with our Kinesiology faculty, and he brings with him a lot of potential in terms of publication and grant activity.” — McEvoy

Department of Leadership, Educational Psychology and Foundations

Dan Oest

Dan Oest

Dan Oest, whose July 1 retirement closed the book on a 33-year career in K-12 education, comes to NIU from Richmond-Burton Community High School District 157 and Nippersink School District 2.

Oest spent 29 years in school administration, the last 21 of those as a superintendent. For 10 of his 12 years in Richmond-Burton, he also served as a shared superintendent with Nippersink.

He holds two degrees from NIU – an M.S.Ed. and Ed.D. – as well as a bachelor’s degree from Western Illinois University and an Ed.D. from National Louis University.

This fall, Oest will supervise the superintendent interns and teach LEAA 710: The Superintendency.

“Dan brings a wealth of experience, having been an educator for many years and superintendent in the region for the last 12 years. He is poised to provide excellent mentorship for our students, current knowledge of school policies to the classrooms and relationships with a variety of school districts in the area. He is the perfect fit for the position of coordinator of the Ed.S. program because of his background as a practitioner and his experience teaching in higher education. Most of our students intend to follow the same job trajectory that he did, making him an excellent role model.” — Teresa A. Wasonga, Presidential Engagement Professor and Fulbright Scholar, Department of Leadership, Educational Psychology and Foundations

Department of Special and Early Education

Natalie Andzik

Natalie Andzik

Natalie Andzik is a recent graduate of The Ohio State University, where she earned her degree in Special Education and Applied Behavior Analysis. She also obtained Board Certification in Behavior Analysis in 2012.

Andzik’s passion for helping students with severe disabilities started as a special education teacher in California, where she taught for eight years.

Her current research is focused on supporting the communication independence of students with disabilities by ensuring practitioners use the most effective evidence-based practices. She has published articles related to special education and applied behavior analysis in a variety of journals, including Exceptional Children, Teaching Exceptional Children and TASH.

She will teach several sections of Collaboration for Inclusive Teaching and Learning this fall.

“Natalie brings with her experience teaching children with disabilities; experience teaching undergraduate and graduate teacher candidates in higher education; successful internal grants; and numerous publications. Teacher education candidates will appreciate her real-world experience, her positive energy and enthusiasm, her sense of humor and her collaborative nature.” — Greg Conderman, chair



Annie Glidden Heritage Garden continues to bloom outside CoE

Gary Swick

Gary Swick

Gary Swick views gardening as fundamental to the future.

“We live in a society that thinks that food comes from a drive-up window or, at best, a refrigerator,” says Swick, an adjunct instructor of Foundations of Education in the NIU Department of Leadership, Educational Psychology and Foundations.

“I think that people growing their own food, or being involved in growing food, is really going to be a key thing for us in getting our culture back,” he adds. “Part of that is connecting to the natural environment, and we can’t really expect people to protect something they don’t care about.”

As a longtime educator, Swick knows that the most effective way to change a culture’s deeply ingrained mindset is through young children who are still learning about their world.

Planting those seeds is the mission of the Annie Glidden Heritage Garden, a plot of four raised beds tilled two years ago near the Barsema Alumni and Visitors Center.

Swick assigns his College of Education students to create and plan lessons in math, science, social studies and language arts based on the garden.

They realize through that process that gardens are powerful teaching tools as well as valuable resources for schools, he says, and become more likely to carry that back-to-the-earth philosophy into their eventual classrooms.

He credits NIU’s Communiversity Gardens as his inspiration. “I was in the right place at the right time. I am one of the faculty co-advisers, with Melissa Burlingame,” Swick says.

Dan Kenney, a key player in the Communiversity Gardens initiative, later helped Swick to construct the Annie Glidden Heritage Garden. “I told Dan that I wanted this teaching garden, and he made it happen. We wrote a dean’s grant, and I received it,” he says.

annie-glidden-1“I got it in my mind that gardening is a skill that every teacher from Northern Illinois University should walk away with if they’re not afraid to put their hands in the soil,” adds Swick, a retired environmental sciences teacher from Dundee-Crown High School.

“You can experience the magic of a child planting a seed, and being able to see that something they can eat comes from it later.”

Connecting that sense of awe and wonder to academics can bear great fruit, he says.

If students are excited over the miracle of seeds turning into plants, he says, imagine the poetry they might write! Imagine their curiosity to know where vegetables came from, how people used those crops over the centuries and their cultural significance to their countries of origin!

Lessons aren’t restricted to vegetable gardens, he adds, mentioning flower gardens and even rock gardens.

“This is really limitless,” he says. “The only limit is people’s imaginations.”

Equally limitless are the possibilities for society if today’s children embrace gardening in a way that matches Swick’s vision.

First, he says, naturally grown foods promote good nutrition, improve health and challenge business.

“You can grow food for way cheaper than you can buy it,” he says. “I’m a believer that consumers control the marketplace. That’s how capitalism works. If people understand their food better, if we start rejecting certain kinds of food, if we can start liking the crunch of carrots and celery instead of potato chips – then the food companies are not going to make it.”

annie-glidden-2Second, he foresees greater civility among humanity.

“Our human culture is not on a sustainable path. We’ve got all of this violence and squabbling. But everybody eats. Everybody has to have food,” he says.

“If you look at a supermarket, people are independent. They’re rushing through, loading up carts, not interacting, being controlled by the marketing on the packages,” he says.

“At a farmers market,” he adds, “it’s a community experience. Conversations take place. Relationships are developed. People are willing to pay more money for something than they would in the supermarket because they know who’s producing it, they know what they’re getting and, in some cases, they can have some control over it.”

Next on Swick’s wish list is a pair of aeroponic gardens, indoor tower-shaped gardens that spray water onto the roots rather than immersing the roots.

He wrote a dean’s grant to obtain one model for the classroom and another for the Learning Center in Gabel Hall; the towers demonstrate the ability of year-round, indoor food production.

Meanwhile, he’s already doing his part to put gardens into tiny hands. First-graders from NIU’s Campus Child Care are watering and weeding the Annie Glidden Heritage Garden while their college-age counterparts are home for the summer.



Project SLIDE couples lessons in biodiversity with preparation for teaching diverse learners

project-slide-2A chance to explore and learn in a natural, outdoor setting is uncommon for most fifth-graders at Golfview Elementary School in Carpentersville.

But students and faculty from the NIU College of Education provided just that this spring.

“I can safely say that it was an experience the fifth-graders will never forget,” says Gary Swick, an adjunct instructor of Foundations of Education in the NIU Department of Leadership, Educational Psychology and Foundations.

“For a lot of these kids, they’ve never been on a trail in a forest preserve, just walking from one place to another in the woods,” he adds. “It was highly sensory and stimulating for them.”

Part of the NIU’s Project SLIDE (Science Literacy in Diverse Education), the day of field activities April 21 at Schweitzer Woods Forest Preserve in West Dundee provided hands-on learning in environmental science and biodiversity.

NIU students first interacted with the Golfview fifth-graders April 7, when they presented five classroom lessons on those topics.

“Gary and I shared some students in their second professional semester – the diversity block, which involves courses about working with diverse learners,” says Dianne Zalesky, an instructor in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction. “In talking to Portia Downey, we heard about Educate Local, and how we could get our students out into a different community with diverse learners.”

project-slide-4Educate Local provides teacher licensure candidates the opportunity to gain experience and develop their perspective of education through volunteering, observing and participating in various campus, community, and educational settings.

Hispanic children make up nearly 96 percent of Golfview’s enrollment, offering a fertile training ground for students in Zalesky’s “ESL Methods and Materials” course.

Curriculum came from Project Learning Tree, a program of the American Forest Foundation that “uses trees and forests as windows on the world” to grow students’ understanding of the environment and actions they can take to conserve it.

“Their motto is, ‘It’s not teaching them what to think; it’s teaching them how to think.’ It’s critical thinking on environmental issues,” Swick says. “My students are certified Project Learning Tree instructors.”

Swick’s students, enrolled in his “Using the Community as a Resource” course, chose the lessons from Project Learning Tree’s book of “outdoor education recipes.” Five teams of Huskies deployed throughout five Golfview classrooms to present. Some taught two lessons, he says, while others tackled five.

“What really impressed me is how well they operated as a team,” Swick says. “It was almost like an internal combustion engine, where you have different pistons firing but they’re all driving the same thing forward. It was rarely one of them standing-and-delivering with the other four watching.”

Zalesky made sure her students practiced differentiation of their lessons to meet the needs of different learners.

project-slide-5“My students learned as much as the fifth-graders did,” Zalesky says. “The more experience you have working with students and applying theory to practice, the better – and that was invaluable. Delivering lessons is not just giving information. It’s interacting with the students. It’s grouping them. It’s classroom management.”

Language-related lessons including writing about shared experiences, she adds, which led to students on both sides of the teaching-learning spectrum creating a book of memories of their time together.

NIU’s students have gained priceless knowledge, Swick agrees.

First, he says, their toolkits now include the planning and delivery of curriculum. Second, he adds, they learned to adjust on the fly and to make improvements from one class to the next.

Their biggest realization, however, might lie in the confirmation of their abilities.

“It was a really great experience for them to be responsible for something this big – so many lessons, which is out of their comfort zone – and being able to adapt things while they’re doing it,” he says.

“Even though it was highly stressful, they thought it went really well, and they knew that if they could pull that off, they could do almost anything,” he adds. “They did a great job.”

project-slide-3



Pluim named LEPF chair

Carolyn Pluim

Carolyn Pluim

Carolyn Pluim nurtures an active curiosity.

An intense interest “in issues around health and well-being” prompted her to earn a bachelor’s degree in nursing from the University of Western Ontario in her native Canada.

When she moved to the United States shortly after graduation and could not immediately take the RN exam in this country, she enrolled at Michigan Technological University to study environmental policy.

That perfect intellectual combination – policy, its implications and health – soon led her to a Ph.D. program at Georgia State University, where she completed a doctorate in educational policy studies and social foundations of education.

In 2007, Pluim began her teaching career at the NIU College of Education in the Department of Leadership, Educational Psychology and Foundations.

One decade later, and after a year serving as acting chair of that department, her leadership role becomes official and permanent July 1.

“NIU has provided me so many opportunities for professional growth. Having been mentored by faculty inside our department and outside our department has been so beneficial,” Pluim says. “I enjoy the people who work in this department, and I enjoy helping to remedy or solve some of the issues that come up in a department that is this diverse and complex.”

Laurie Elish-Piper, dean of the College of Education, is pleased that Pluim has accepted the appointment.

“Based on her contributions this past year as acting chair, I am confident that she is highly qualified and motivated to lead,” Elish-Piper says. “Carolyn is a strategic thinker, problem-solver and consensus-builder who is well positioned to lead LEPF into the future.”

Pluim has taught courses in the foundations of education, the history of education, the ethics of education and education as an agent of change.

health-apple-2Meanwhile, she has continued to investigate the intersections of health and policy, especially as they relate to schools.

Research in this realm comes at a critical and problematic time, she says, as lawmakers begin to encourage forms of “healthism” in public schools by requiring fitness testing, body-mass indexing and even the distribution of “health report cards” to parents, guardians and state governments.

She is the co-author of “Schools and Public Health: Past, Present, Future,” and has written numerous articles and book chapters. She is collaborating with Australian colleagues as a partner-investigator on a University of Queensland-based project studying the digitization of school health and physical education.

Her work also explores how policies shape how children think about health and, in turn, come to understand and identify with their bodies.

For example, she has questioned the “give-it-to-the-schools” attitude that delegates conversations on difficult topics such as sex and drugs solely to teachers.

“That’s really a dangerous reflex – that, ‘We don’t need to think about drug education because the schools are doing that,’ ” Pluim says. “It obscures solutions that could possibly be more effective.”

Book cover of “Schools and Public Health: Past, Present, Future,”As department chair, Pluim will ensure that LEPF meets and exceeds the academic and professional needs of its students.

She is proud of recent work faculty in the department have done to reimagine and redesign programs, such as the Ed.D. in Leadership and Policy Studies and the Ed.S. in Educational Administration.

Her plans to maintain the quality of the nationally recognized M.S.Ed. in School Business Management call for continued recruitment and retention of excellent faculty and students as well as a sustained commitment to the program’s strong relationship with the Illinois Association of School Business Officials.

“I love the diversity of our department,” Pluim says. “We have very diverse faculty who have very different ways of seeing the world and of approaching their research. I love the people who are so passionate about what they do.”

Pluim lives in Sycamore with sons Jared, 13, and Calvin, 11.