Tag: Community Learning Series

Suicide ‘survivors,’ counselors discuss uncomfortable subject, stigma at powerful CLS event

Adam Carter

Adam Carter

For Adam Carter, the moment came some 15 years ago in the preschool classroom where he taught.

Three-year-old Malcolm would not – or perhaps could not – sleep during the nap time; instead, Carter remembers, the young boy asked to climb onto his teacher’s lap.

Carter would have rather taken those few moments to rest himself, or to sanitize the classroom and its toys, but he nodded and plopped into the rocking chair. Malcolm joined him.

“He said, ‘Did you know that my grandpa just died?’ ” says Carter, who did not know. “Malcolm, at 3 years old, said, ‘I have mixed feelings about that.’ ”

For Stephanie Weber, the moment came nearly 40 years ago. She had recently “retired” from teaching to become a stay-at-home mom to four children, the youngest of whom was only 11 months old.

Weber’s mother, who had tried to die by suicide two-and-a-half years before, succeeded in her second attempt. She was 61.

It stirred within Weber feelings of shock, grief and anger, and bestowed on her a new title.

“The initials by our names are ‘survivor,’ ” Weber says. “We have been down in the trenches where we never wanted to be.”

Laura Bartosik

Laura Bartosik

Laura Bartosik’s moment came only three years ago. Her son, Seth, “so likeable, so compassionate,” chose to take his life at the age of 20.

Bartosik and her husband, Brett, overwhelmed with shock, tears and guilt, struggled to understand. Their only child was gone.

Seth was always “a happy-go-lucky youngster” and “a social butterfly.” Teachers told the proud parents that Seth was “a joy to have in class” and “a chatty kid.” He loved to fish, skate, play hockey and ride his skateboard.

Two years after he graduated from DeKalb High School, he was ready to attend culinary school. The taste of his bread pudding with caramel sauce is one his mother cannot forget; her voice breaks in sorrow when she says that she’ll never get to taste it again.

“I never imagined that this lovable kid, this social butterfly, would take his own life,” Bartosik says. “You feel your heart just breaking.”

Carter, Weber and Bartosik – their lives all jarred and redirected by personal grief or the grief of others – were among five panelists Oct. 12 at the NIU College of Education’s Community Learning Series on “Suicide Prevention: Sharing Strategies of Care.”

Panelists also included Brooke Ruxton, who serves NIU students, and Vince Walsh-Rock, who works with students at Downers Grove South High School.

Suzanne Degges-White

Suzanne Degges-White

Organized by the Department of Counseling, Adult and Higher Education, the evening was dedicated to what Chair Suzanne Degges-White called “breaking the silence.”

It was a night of courage and questions, capped by a performance from Aurora’s Simply Destinee dance troupe, formed in honor of Destinee Oliva, who died by suicide in 2010 at the age of 16.

It was also a night with a challenge to “end the stigma” and to “ask the hard question” to those who might seem suicidal: “Are you thinking about killing yourself?”

Mental health issues impact all ages and all people, something made vividly clear through the stories from the panelists. However, when it comes to suicide, many people are reluctant to confront it or to even speak its name aloud.

“We have to say the word,” Weber told the audience inside the Barsema Alumni and Visitors Center. “Saying the word ‘suicide’ doesn’t cause someone to take their life.”

“Talking about death and talking about dying is hard. It’s hard all the time,” Carter added. “These are conversations that are hard to have, but they’re worth having.”

Ruxton, director of Counseling and Consulting Services at NIU, related the story of a former NIU student who earned excellent grades, was active in extracurricular organizations and held leadership positions on campus.

Despite her outward appearance, she worked hard to keep her inner suffering a well-guarded secret. She contemplated suicide every day. She cut herself to treat the sadness. When she chose to seek help from Ruxton, it took three or four therapy sessions for her to utter even one word; during those appointments, the young woman could only curl up into a ball and cry.

Brooke Ruxton

Brooke Ruxton

“I could see the pain, so I just sat with her,” Ruxton said. “I helped her to breathe.”

At the end of each appointment, Ruxton asked important questions: “Can you come back next week? Are you going to be safe until next week?”

The answers, fortunately, were always “yes.”

Eventually, as graduation arrived and their counseling relationship ended, the young woman gave Ruxton a note of thanks with a quote from Elizabeth David, a 20th century writer from the United Kingdom: “There are people who take the heart out of you, and there are people who put it back.”

“What meant most to her was feeling cared about,” Ruxton said.

Around 40 percent of students who visit the NIU Counseling and Consulting Services have considered suicide, she said. Around 13 percent of those have tried to kill themselves.

Young people today are “navigating this world that’s constantly sending them information” via social media, she said. When mental health issues arise, they might feel ashamed or embarrassed by what could seem to them signs of weakness.

“Not every person who is struggling is going to say, ‘I’m having a hard time, and I’m going to go see a counselor,’ ” Ruxton said.

Sadly, she added, the stigma of suicide prevents many from receiving the critical intervention they desperately need from friends, family and others in their lives.

“People don’t know where to start. They’re afraid to cross a line or open a can of worms,” she said.

However, she added, “you don’t have to fix it right there and then.”

Vince Walsh-Rock and Stephanie Weber

Vince Walsh-Rock and Stephanie Weber

Walsh-Rock remembers cases of suicidal thoughts among Downers Grove South students as “minimal” when he started there 20 years ago. Now, he said, the staff under his supervision bring two – or sometimes three or four – such reports each day.

Many teens feel a “pervasive isolation,” he said, a type of trauma that requires compassion and action. Their young minds can believe that “this is the worst thing that’s ever happened – and it’s happening to me.”

Consequently, he teaches “depression literacy” and uses “threat models” that clearly signal to caregivers and others when they need to access appropriate services.

He also empowers everyone from teachers and school administrators to custodians, bus drivers, cafeteria workers and secretaries to “see something, say something.”

“If you work in isolation,” he said, “you’re going to make mistakes.”

NIU’s Carter, an assistant professor of trauma counseling in the Department of Counseling, Adult and Higher Education, has concentrated his career on intervening in the lives of preschool children.

Despite their tender ages, and as impossible as it seems, he said, there are 4-year-olds with thoughts of hurting or killing themselves. It’s as easy as walking in front of moving cars or jumping out of windows, he said.

Carter prepares future counselors to understand the grief experiences of children ages 3 to 5 – “it looks different,” he said – to help parents and caregivers communicate with the little ones.

“It’s something we as adults tend to be very afraid of talking about,” he said. “We don’t want to have these conversations with them.”

Aurora’s Simply Destinee dance troupe performed at the end of the evening.

Should the unthinkable happen, Bartosik said, survivors can find ways to move on.

For the Bartosiks, the answers lay in honoring their son’s memory and by supporting, teaching and empowering his friends and other young people.

They first opened their home as a safe space for Seth’s friends to share grief and ask questions. “We thought, ‘We can all stumble through this together, or we can let the kids just suffer through this all alone,’ ” she said, “but that’s not who we are.”

Next, they launched a non-profit organization called Project Seth in the hopes that sharing their son’s story could potentially save the lives of others.

“This is how we got our hope. This is how we make it through every day without Seth,” she said. “He didn’t do anything wrong. Something was wrong – and that’s why he took his life.”

Weber, the executive director of Suicide Prevention Services of America, counseled the Bartosiks in their mourning.

Her love for suicide survivors is the foundation of all her work, which includes education and training, a suicide hotline, support groups, public speaking and, of naturally, counseling. “I am honored that they trust me with their pain,” she said, “and we move forward together.”

Of course, she acknowledged, not every answer will come.

“You have to keep asking yourself ‘Why?’ until you no longer have to keep asking. The person who has that answer can’t tell us,” she said. “We finally have to let that go and move on.”

Mark McGowan, NIU Newsroom



Community Learning Series will explore awareness, prevention of ‘taboo’ subject of suicide

cls-poster-newLegendary grunge rocker Chris Cornell committed suicide May 18 in his hotel room following a concert in Detroit.

Only two months later, on July 20, Linkin Park singer Chester Bennington took his own life at home in California. Bennington had performed at Cornell’s memorial service. The two had been friends. Between them, they left nine children, some as young as 6.

Members of the media – the music media, especially – scrambled for answers. Why? Why now? Were there signs? Could anyone have helped? In the end, their reporting took the shape of rise-and-fall stories that shed little light on what caused the tragedies of May 18 and July 20.

The all-too-real deaths of Cornell and Bennington exist alongside the pop-culture sphere of the fictional TV series, “13 Reasons Why,” which has renewed intense scrutiny, conversation and controversy throughout the nation for its stark depiction of teen suicide.

But conversation on uncomfortable topics is important, says Suzanne Degges-White, chair of the NIU Department of Counseling, Adult and Higher Education.

And conversation is the goal of “Suicide Prevention: Sharing Strategies of Care,” the latest installment in the College of Education’s Community Learning Series.

“Suicide is a topic a lot of people are afraid to address,” Degges-White says. “They’re afraid that if they talk about it, they might make someone commit suicide or want to commit suicide. They think that if they bring it up, they might be planting seeds of an idea – and that’s not true.”

Suzanne Degges-White

Suzanne Degges-White

Beyond those fears, she adds, “suicide is still a taboo subject. It’s something we don’t mention, and there’s a lot of shame and stigma for people who’ve lost someone to suicide. It’s a fear that they’ll be looked down upon.”

Five panelists will explore topics of suicide from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 12, in the Barsema Alumni and Visitors Center, 231 N. Annie Glidden Road. The event is free and open to the public; a reception will take place from 5:30 to 6 p.m.

Panelists include Adam Carter, an assistant professor of trauma counseling in the Department of Counseling, Adult and Higher Education; and Brooke Ruxton, director of Counseling and Consulting Services at NIU.

Others on the panel are Laura Bartosik, co-founder of Project SethStephanie Weber, executive director, Suicide Prevention Services of America; and Vince Walsh-Rock, assistant principal for Counseling and Student Support Services at Downers Grove South High School.

Degges-White will moderate the discussion, leading the panelists through questions that identify ways in which the average person can recognize the warning signs and feel prepared to speak up.

Her colleagues also will explore topics of self-injury and supportive services provided by schools.

Members of the audience who are mourning the suicides of friends and loved ones will hear valuable tips for working through their grief, Degges-White says. Counselors will attend the event, she adds, and will make themselves available for anyone in need that evening.

Adam Carter and Brooke Ruxton

Adam Carter and Brooke Ruxton

“If you’ve lost someone to suicide, this is a safe place – and a good opportunity to hear the stories of others,” Degges-White says. “Laura Bartosik lost her son to suicide, and she has turned her grief into positive action. She created Project Seth, a foundation where they promote suicide awareness.”

The Oct. 12 event fits well with a $300,000 grant received last fall from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration to decrease stigma around mental health and to promote resilience in the NIU community.

NIU’s three-year grant, which is shared by the Department of Counseling, Adult and Higher Education and Counseling and Consultation Services, funds various training programs and an awareness campaign.

“The connections that we’re making through the grant really indicated that this topic needs to be addressed in multiple areas and not just to our campus,” Degges-White says. “It’s important to talk about this topic. Suicide should never be perceived as an acceptable option to solve a problem.”

For more information, call (815) 753-1448 or email cahe@niu.edu.



Community Learning Series: Five ways to make sure kids grow through their love of tech

Parents can’t help but worry.

Phones, tablets and apps galore are competing for the undivided attention of their children and teens – and chances probably seem good to many moms and dads that the technology is winning.

So what can we do to make sure that our kids are getting the most out of their Internet-connected gadgets? Is there a way to promote their educational potential while mitigating the negative consequences?

Five experts convened March 23 by the NIU College of Education to explore “The Digital Lives of Children: Giving Screen Time a Closer Look” offered opinions and strategies that can help parents make sense of it all.

  • Remember that quality of content and user experience matter. All devices are potential tools for learning through their rapid feedback and just-in-time information. Developers of instructional technology consciously design software to deliver active learning that follows educational best practices. Ask yourself: Is this device or app helping my child to learn about the world – and to make sense of it? Is it making a stronger impact than a textbook? Searching the Internet for information can turn users into critical consumers who spend their learning time deliberating what this information means rather than digging for it.
  • Set rules. The American Academy of Pediatrics in October 2016 issued new recommendations for screen time, including zero hours a day for children from birth to age 2 and no more than one hour a day for preschoolers. For school-age children – kindergarten through high school – establish screen-free places, especially bedrooms, and screen-free times, such as family dinner and one hour before bedtime. Parents also must realize that their own digital lives influence those of their children; if they’re watching you, turn off the tablet or put down the phone.
  • Keep a close eye on your child’s digital life. Remind your kids that part of the agreement of supplying them with tech is that you are free to monitor their devices, scroll through their screens and ask questions. Make sure you understand the functions of their favorite apps. If they’re on Snapchat, you should join Snapchat. If you aren’t familiar with their apps, yet you choose not to intervene, consider that akin to allowing them to spend the night at the home a friend whose parents you’ve never met. Network with other parents to stay informed.
  • Encourage active programs. The hugely popular Minecraft – “Legos with no parameters,” said panelist Jennifer McCormick, a fourth-grade teacher at West Elementary School in Sycamore Community School District 427 – requires users to think creatively and to interact. Many videos on YouTube are instructional, harnessing the medium of “modeling” to teach viewers to cook, knit, braid hair or thousands of other things in a way that’s far more effective than words on a page. Even video games require players to remain actively engaged by plotting strategies and making and executing decisions. Many video games also spool out instructions as the games progress, something that forces constant attention – unlike presenting all the rules before the game starts and likely causing players to ignore them.
  • Pay close attention for “red flags” of digital addiction. Are their devices getting in the way of their normal activities? Are they choosing their phones over other alternatives for human interaction or physical activity? Are they ignoring you? Do they put up a fight when asked to turn off, or turn over, the tech? Are their grades suffering? Is their use of technology a way to self-medicate for depression?
Panelists, from left: Jennifer McCormick, John Burkey, Jason Underwood, Susan Goldman and Danielle Baran.

Panelists, from left: Jennifer McCormick, John Burkey, Jason Underwood,
Susan Goldman and Danielle Baran.

 

For parents who fear it’s already too late, panelist Danielle Baran, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist at Advocate Children’s Hospital in Park Ridge, has advice: Ask yourself how you got to this place. For example, if your children need screens to calm down, did you instill that behavior?

Baran also agreed with fellow panelist Susan Goldman, Ph.D., distinguished professor of psychology and education at the University of Illinois at Chicago: Human interaction – human emotional connection – is key.

“No technology you can invent has more buttons than you,” Baran said. “You are limitless.”

Other members of the NIU College of Education’s Community Learning Series panel were John Burkey, superintendent of Huntley Community School District 158, and Jason Underwood, senior instructional designer at assistant director of the NIU eLearning and Digital Convergence Lab.



Digital dilemma: CLS panel to examine children’s ‘screen time’

cellphone-girlDo you think your children spend too much time glued to digital devices? Are you worried that they’re more connected with their phones, tablets and TVs than with their families and friends?

You’re not alone.

Children ages 8 and younger engage with their screens an average of six hours each day, according to a recent study.

For some school-age children, that connection could improve academic achievement, especially language skills and literacy. Others, however, might experience losses in those areas along with higher rates of obesity and depression.

How can educators, parents, guardians and professionals promote the educational promises of screen time while also mitigating the negative consequences?

The NIU College of Education’s spring Community Learning Series will examine this question from all sides Thursday, March 23, with “The Digital Lives of Children: Giving Screen Time a Closer Look.”

Moderated by Dan Klefstad, host of Northern Public Radio’s popular news program Morning Edition, the panel discussion will take place from 6 to 7:30 p.m. in Barsema Alumni and Visitors Center, 231 N. Annie Glidden Road.

Top: Carolyn Pluim (Vander Schee) and Ben Creed. Bottom: Lindsay Harris and Amy Stich

Top: Carolyn Pluim (Vander Schee) and Ben Creed
Bottom: Lindsay Harris and Amy Stich

WNIJ-89.5 FM is the media sponsor of the event, which is free and open to the public. A networking reception is scheduled from 5 to 6 p.m.

Carolyn Pluim (Vander Schee), chair of the Department of Leadership, Educational Psychology and Foundations, organized the event with faculty members Benjamin Creed, Lindsay Harris and Amy Stich.

“Where does research stand on these questions? To what extent is research considered by technology developers and educational policymakers? How have parents and educators dealt with increased screen time in homes and schools?” Pluim said.

“Our panel will explore these questions through dialogue between the evidence-based opinions of experts in the fields of psychology and educational technology,” she added, “along with the experiences of professional educators and the experiences and perspectives of the audience.”

Panelists will address what current research says about the relationship between screen time and cognitive and emotional development; academic engagement and achievement; literacy, language and communication skills; and physical health.

They also will provide strategies for parents, Pluim said.

Members of the panel:

  • Danielle Baran, a clinical psychologist at Advocate Children’s Hospital
  • John Burkey, superintendent, Huntley Community School District 158
  • Susan Goldman, Distinguished Professor of psychology and education, University of Illinois at Chicago
  • Thomas Kim, principal, Huntley Middle School, DeKalb Community Unit School District 428
  • Jennifer McCormick, fourth-grade teacher, West Elementary, Sycamore Community School District 427
  • Jason Underwood, assistant director, NIU Outreach eLearning

wnij-logoThe NIU College of Education’s Community Learning Series brings together experts from various disciplines and occupations to discuss topics that have included public school leadership, innovative classroom teaching, gender, civil rights, concussions, athletic training and more.



College of Education’s spring 2016 Community Learning Series panel to discuss concussion in youth sports

Sharon Moskowitz

Sharon Moskowitz

Sharon Moskowitz, a NIU graduate student and life-long athlete, suffered her first concussion at 15, the result of a particularly aggressive foul during a high school basketball game. Moskowitz’s opponent hit her so hard that it broke her nose and knocked her out for a few moments. Her coached benched Moskowitz for a month – not because of the concussion but because of the broken nose. At the time, athletes were expected to shake it off after having their bell rung.

Since then Moskowitz has suffered as many as eight concussions, most recently from a ski-boarding accident that left her stuttering for a month afterward.

“Awareness of traumatic brain injury was almost non-existent while I was growing up and in college,” she said.

But that awareness is growing.

Publicity surrounding brain damage among retired professional football players and research into the long-term effects of head injuries among young athletes have left parents wondering about their child’s safety on the field and prompted lawmakers nationwide to pass new laws regarding concussion in youth sports.

The NIU College of Education’s Department of Kinesiology and Physical Education will address these issues in a panel discussion titled “Concussion and Youth Sport” on Tuesday, March 22, 2016.

Paul Wright, Moderator

Paul Wright, Moderator

The panel will include medical doctors, policy makers, researchers and others associated with youth sports who will provide information about the effects that concussions have on young and developing brains, as well as details of the Youth Sports Concussion Safety Act which goes into effect at schools across Illinois this fall. Moskowitz will also be on hand to share her own experiences with concussion. (See below for a complete list of panelists.)

NIU Professor Paul M. Wright will moderate the panel. He oversees a multi-disciplinary group known as the Physical Activity Group and Life Skills Group. That group combines expertise from NIU’s programs in kinesiology, psychology, speech and language pathologists and public health. Together they work with organizations like the YMCA and youth sport leagues to promote positive youth development through sports, and to ensure that the wellbeing of athletes is always at the forefront.

“I think the most important thing the science has shown us is that concussions, even sub-concussive events like heading the ball in soccer, have more serious consequences for young athletes than we thought just 10 years ago,” he said. “That the practice for decades has been to tell the injured participant to shake it off and get back in the game has only compounded the problem.”

Matt Wilson

Matt Wilson

According to a 2013 report released by the Institute of Medicine and National Research Council the report examined concussions in a variety of youth sports with athletes aged 5 to 21. Among the findings:

  • The reported number of individuals aged 19 and under treated in U.S. emergency departments for concussions and other non-fatal, sports- and recreation-related traumatic brain injuries increased from 150,000 in 2001 to 250,000 in 2009.
  • Football, ice hockey, lacrosse, wrestling, and soccer are associated with the highest rates of reported concussions for U.S. male athletes at the high school and college levels.
  • Soccer, lacrosse, and basketball are associated with the highest rates of reported concussions for U.S. female athletes at the high school and college levels.  Women’s ice hockey at the collegiate level has the highest rate of reported concussions.
  • Youths with a history of prior concussion have higher rates of reported sports-related concussions.

“NIU is hosting the panel to bring together an array of experts in the field of youth sports and concussion to answer questions that parents, school administrators, nurses, coaches and others involved with youth sports have about concussions and the new law,” said Wright.

Event information

Concussion and Youth Sports Panel Discussion

Tuesday, March 22, 2016
Barsema Alumni and Visitors Center
231 N. Annie Glidden Rd.
Reception: 5 p.m. to 6 p.m.
Panel discussion: 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
Light hors d’oeuvres will be served

Free and open to the public

For more information, please contact Dr. Paul M. Wright at (815) 753-9219 or pwright@niu.edu

 

Panelists:

Cynthia LaBella, M.D.
Medical Director
Institute for Sports Medicine
Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago

Jeff Mjannes, M.D.
Director
Chicago Sports Concussion Clinic
Rush University Medical Center

Matt Wilson, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor
Division of Allied Health and Communicative Disorders
Northern Illinois University

Adam Potteiger, MS, ATC
Certified Athletic Trainer
Division of Orthopedic Surgery and Sports Medicine
Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago

Thomas Kim
Principal, coach and former high school athletic director
Huntley Middle School

Sharon Moskowitz
Athlete, NIU graduate student

Moderator:
Paul. M. Wright, Ph.D.
Lane/Zimmerman Endowed Professor in Kinesiology and Physical Education
Department of Kinesiology and Physical Education
Northern Illinois University

 



Panel discussion to address tough issues facing local schools, teachers and students

Douglas Moeller, Steven Koch, Erika Schlichter

The NIU College of Education’s ongoing Community Learning Series continues Thursday, Oct. 22 when the college welcomes back three distinguished alumni to share their experiences as educators and school administrators and provide insights into what it takes to be successful in today’s classrooms.

The guests will also provide an “on-the-ground” look at some of the pressing issues facing local schools and school districts, including the impact of the Illinois budget crisis, Common Core and student testing.

Dr. Brad Hawk, assistant professor in the COE’s Department of Leadership, Educational Psychology and Leadership as well as a former school superintendent himself, will moderate the panel, which includes:

  • Douglas Moeller, superintendent, DeKalb School District 428
  • Erika Schlichter, chief academic officer, District 158
  • Steven Koch, principal, Prairie Ridge High School

“All of our guests have been highly successful teachers who have moved up through the system, through a variety of jobs at a variety of districts,” Hawk said. “Their comments will be valuable to anyone seeking a career as a teacher but also for teachers – prospective or veteran – who are interested in taking on administrative roles.”

The discussion will also appeal to parents and others who are interested in critical issues facing local schools and districts.

“The chance to talk with such highly placed and influential leaders in education will give us a clear view into what’s really happening in our schools,” he said.

“Dr. Moeller, for example, will discuss financial issues that are now affecting local districts here and around the state,” he said, adding that Schlichter is an expert on Common Core standards and high-stakes testing, while Koch’s Prairie Ridge High School has become the model for student performance in recent years. The discussion will include an extensive question and answer session.

What: Community Learning Series: Leadership in the Classroom

Where: Barsema Alumni and Visitors Center, 231 N. Annie Glidden Road, DeKalb, IL

Date: Thursday, Oct. 22, 2015

Time: 5 p.m. – 6 p.m.: Networking reception with light hors d’oeuvres; 6 p.m. – 7:30 p.m.: Panel discussion and Q&A

The event is free and open to the public. Free parking is available for all attendees in the lot adjacent to the Barsema Alumni and Visitors Center. Please RSVP to Paul Baker at pbaker@niu.edu or 815-753-8434.

 

Meet our distinguished panelists:

Dr. Steven Koch joined District 155 in 2001 as a Prairie Ridge English teacher. He served as English department chairman from 2005 until 2008, when he assumed his role as the district’s director of staff development. He returned to Prairie Ridge as the school’s fourth principal in July 2013. Dr. Koch received both a B.A. degree in secondary English education with a minor in rhetoric and a M.A. degree in English literature from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He has both an Educational Specialist degree and a Type 75 certification from Northern Illinois University. Koch earned his Ed.D. degree from NIU for his work concentrating on public school officials’ authority over student cyberspeech. Koch’s wife, Katie, is a member of the District 155 math faculty, and together they have three children.

Dr. Douglas J. Moeller is the superintendent of schools for DeKalb Community Unit School District (CUSD) 428. The day after graduating from Elgin High School, in Elgin Ill., he left home to begin six years of service in the United States Marine Corps. Upon completing his military service, Dr. Moeller attended Northern Illinois University and earned a B.S. degree in mathematics and economics. He immediately found employment as a corporate actuary, and spent nine years working for both Kemper Corporation and Allstate Insurance Company’s International Reinsurance Division. Although this profession was monetarily rewarding, it was not personally fulfilling. His wife, Christine, was an elementary school teacher, and seeing the positive impact she was having on the lives of children, Dr. Moeller made a career change to teach.

He began his career in education as a mathematics teacher at Gifford Street High School, an alternative high school located in Elgin School District U-46. During this time, Dr. Moeller also worked as an adjunct instructor for Elgin Community College teaching Calculus, Differential Equations, and Probability & Statistics. He then served as a dean of students and chair of the special education department at Elgin High School. His last position in U-46 was as the school district’s director for mathematics and science.

Dr. Moeller joined DeKalb CUSD 428 in 2009 as the principal of DeKalb High School. While serving in this position he worked on the construction of, and opened, the new DeKalb High School in the fall of 2011. Before assuming his current position, Dr. Moeller was the assistant superintendent for curriculum and student services in DeKalb. He holds a Ph.D. degree in educational organization and leadership from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Now in her 19th year as an educator, Dr. Erika Schlichter is beginning her second year as the chief academic officer for Huntley Community School District 158, a large unit district in McHenry County. In this role she collaborates to provide leadership in all aspects of teaching and learning for the district. She comes to this position having served in curriculum leadership, human resources leadership, high school building administration, and high school teaching roles in several large unit districts in the greater Chicago area.

Dr. Schlichter is a graduate of NIU and the University of Wisconsin-Madison. After receiving a B.A. degree in history and Spanish from UW-Madison, she went on to a career in education and simultaneously pursued graduate work at NIU. She holds multiple degrees from NIU, including an M.S.Ed. degree in curriculum and instruction-secondary education, an M.S.Ed. degree in education administration, and an Ed.D. degree in education administration.