And that is exactly where a small group of NIU College of Education Educate U.S. travelers will find themselves the week of May 14.
“Our past Educate U.S. experiences have been in urban settings, significantly larger than their traditional field placements,” says Jenny Johnson, director of teacher preparation for the college. “Our leadership team really wanted to give our teacher-licensure candidates is exposure to, and experience in, a truly rural setting. The Mandaree experience expands the range of opportunities for our candidates to take engaged learning to the next level.”
North Dakota-bound: Caleb Purcell, Haleigh Ellet, Andrew Finch and Delaney Nauman
Ninety-eight percent of Mandaree’s fewer than 200 students come from Native American tribes. Some of the two dozen teachers grew up in the Fort Berthold reservation or nearby; others grew up in other reservations.
One building serves the entire K-12 population, which is overseen by a superintendent, an elementary school principal and a high school principal. The district itself falls under the jurisdiction of the Bureau of Indian Education of the Bureau of Indian Affairs.
Zalesky made the initial contact with the Mandaree School District when she visited in the summer of 2017 as a certified consultant for WIDA (World-class Instructional Design and Assessment).
The WIDA consortium advances academic language development and academic achievement for children and youth who are culturally and linguistically diverse. Zalesky presented professional development on working with diverse learners and the English Language Development Standards.
While Zalesky could not personally observe student-teacher interaction during the summer, the time she spent living among and working with teachers spoke volumes.
“I was having a conversation with Superintendent Ann Longie, just talking about what a great experience I had meeting the teachers there,” Zalesky says, “and I told her about some of the opportunities that NIU College of Education students have, one being Educate U.S.”
Both believed that five days in Mandaree would provide a unique perspective to future teachers, one beyond the already diverse array of clinical experience the college offers. Dean Laurie Elish-Piper, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs David Walker and Johnson agreed.
“What I would like to think is that they will see some different methods, simply because it’s a different population – or maybe not. Maybe it’s not that different,” says Zalesky, who will return to Mandaree to supervise the Educate U.S. students. “I would hope they’ll see the cultural and community aspects that influence instruction. I would hope they would see that there aren’t too many fluent speakers of indigenous languages.”
She knows they observe “a strong sense of commitment” to students from teachers and, most of all, flexibility.
Much of that flexibility comes in response to the hiring and retention of teachers in a region of the country with brutal winters, she adds.
“I met teachers who the previous year taught fourth- or fifth-grade, and this year they’re teaching kindergarten or first. Last year, they were teaching social studies and science, and this year English or math,” Zalesky says. “They just say, ‘This is what I’m teaching. I might have four or five preps at multiple grade levels and multiple content areas from one year to the next.”
Administrators are part of that equation as well.
“If they need a bus driver, the superintendent will drive the bus. A building principal will drive the bus,” she says. “People just pitch in to do what they need to do, without question, without complaint and without a second thought.”
NIU’s select students will taste a bit of that flexibility, Johnson says.
“There is nothing like this in our service region, so participating in this experience is an added value. It’s a rich opportunity to see teaching and learning through a completely different lens,” she says. “The more they know and experience, the more highly qualified they will be upon graduation, and the more tools they will have to plan and design instruction for the students they’ll serve.”
Mandaree classrooms will bring to life what NIU College of Education students learn in their courses about diverse instruction, demonstrating how those theories and methods are implemented in different spaces to support student growth.
Licensure candidates also will learn about professional development in rural schools, Johnson adds, as well as “the culture of teachers and students living in the same small space during the education cycle.”
As with the semiannual trips to the Houston Independent School District, the NIU College of Education pays for all travel expenses. Housing accommodations are provided by the partner districts, allowing Educate U.S. participants the opportunity to experience community, culture and authentic home-school connections.
Educate U.S. travelers are eligible for the university’s Engage PLUS transcript notation.
The dean of the NIU College of Education used the platform of the spring all-college meeting to reveal her “one word” focus for personal development and effort and to also encourage faculty and staff to choose their own “one word” missions.
“Mine is ‘inspire.’ One of my goals is to inspire others to do their best work, to set higher goals and to engage,” Elish-Piper told the audience. “I also want to make sure that I take the time to look at, learn about and be inspired by all the amazing work you’re doing.”
Evidence of that work proved in ample supply during the 90-minute meeting Jan. 9, which also included remarks from Acting NIU President Lisa Freeman.
Shining examples included expansion of Educate U.S., which this semester will send students to practice their teaching skills at a Native American reservation in North Dakota.
Meanwhile, Elish-Piper said, the “Engage” division of the donor- and partner-funded Educate and Engage Program soon will provide “fabulous opportunities” to non-licensure students.
Kinesiology majors can travel to the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado while Sport Management students can visit several facilities in Indianapolis, including the famed Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
College of Ed faculty and staff learned from David Walker, associate dean for Academic Affairs, that enrollment in the College of Education is climbing, something unique among NIU’s seven colleges.
Walker (one word: “care”) partially attributed those gains – up 0.76 percent at the undergraduate level, and up 4.26 percent at the graduate level, for a grand total of 2.41 percent at the time of the all-college meeting – to the college’s emphasis on intentional growth, a pillar of the Strategic Action Planning Framework.
At the undergraduate level, the college is working on one new degree (the B.S. in Sport Management), four new minors (including the Department of Counseling, Adult and Higher Education’s minor in Social Change Leadership), 19 new courses and three new certificates of study that will all be ready for Fall 2018 enrollment.
Honors enrollment of College of Education students soared 24 percent in one year, Walker added.
Bill Pitney, associate dean of Research, Resources and Innovation, reported on progress in the framework’s Research Advancement objective despite small drops in the college’s research productivity.
Ben Creed and Zach Wahl-Alexander
Pitney (one word: “grace”) saluted two professors – Ben Creed from the Department of Leadership, Educational Psychology and Foundations; and Zachary Wahl-Alexander, from the Department of Kinesiology and Physical Education – who were named to the PI Academy External Mentoring Program.
Five faculty members were recognized as recipients of Dean’s Research Grants. All eventually will present the results of their work, as previous grantees did during the fall semester.
It all sounded wonderful to Freeman, who called herself “optimistic about NIU’s future.”
“The College of Education values and priorities align with NIU’s mission and core values, as well as the university’s commitments to excellence, knowledge creation, innovative practice and social justice,” Freeman said.
“Moreover, your strategic planning efforts are appropriately reflective of the opportunities identified through Program Prioritization,” she added, “as well as the historical importance of the College of Education as an anchor of the university and a leader in P-20 educational innovation across our region, state, nation and world.”
NIU’s chief executive encouraged the audience to “hope for the best and plan for the worst” when it comes to Springfield and budgets. The university is “prepared for the unthinkable,” she added.
Higher education must actively engage in the conversation in Illinois as some call for consolidation, she said. “We shouldn’t be staying away from tough conversations. We should be encouraging realistic conversation,” she said. “What we need to do is be unafraid to speak.”
Freeman then revealed her “one word” for 2018 – “relationships” – which reinforces the importance of collaboration.
Relationships provide resources for individuals and institutions. Relationships surround people with others who see the world differently. Relationships heal, reaffirm, encourage and, with a nod to Dean Elish-Piper, inspire.
“When you can never get enough time or money to do something,” Freeman said, “the value of relationships is one that should never be underestimated.”
Enjoy photos from the all-college meeting and the festive “Winter Wonderland” social event that followed immediately in the Learning Center.
NIU cultivates a dynamic and enriching environment for faculty looking to grow as professionals, but the College of Education believes there is always room for improvement.
“On our campus and so many other campuses, we are very intentional about professional development for teaching. We have resources on our campus in that regard,” says Chad McEvoy, chair of the Department of Kinesiology and Physical Education.
“We’re also very intentional about research development as, again, are many other universities,” McEvoy adds. “We’re not always as intentional when it comes to developing future leaders.”
The challenge is clear, he says.
“For our college and our university to be successful in the future, we need strong leaders and we need to develop future strong leaders who are going to be our future deans, associate deans, department chairs, program directors and other administrators on campus,” he says.
“But how do we prepare our faculty and others to not only fill these positions but to excel in these positions in the future? That’s a thought I’ve had in my head for a long time.”
Enter EdLEAD, the College of Education Leadership Education and Development Program.
Designed to invest in the intentional development of leadership skills for faculty who aspire to take on such positions, EdLEAD will present a series of professional development workshops through the spring and summer semesters of 2018.
Faculty in the program then will spend the 2018-19 academic year in hands-on leadership projects that provide practical experience.
Steve Howell, Department of Kinesiology and Physical Education
Jim Ressler, Department of Kinesiology and Physical Education
Kelly Summers, Department of Leadership, Educational Psychology and Foundations
Stephen Tonks, Department of Leadership, Educational Psychology and Foundations
Paul Wright, Department of Kinesiology and Physical Education
All will find “robust preparation to grow, learn, take on new opportunities and expand their careers in different ways,” says Laurie Elish-Piper, dean of the College of Education.
Top row: Mary Beth Henning and Steve Howell Middle row: Jim Ressler and Kelly Summers Bottom row: Stephen Tonks and Paul Wright
“Higher ed is facing a lot of challenges, and having highly qualified leaders who are ready to step in is critical to the health and wellbeing of any academic institution,” Elish-Piper says.
“We want to make sure we are investing in our faculty who aspire to take on leadership roles,” she adds. “We truly believe that professional development of leadership skills will not only enhance the contributions these people will make but also their experiences at NIU.”
McEvoy initiated early conversations with Elish-Piper and associate deans Bill Pitney and David Walker, discovering that they shared similar visions and approaches.
“Early in the fall semester, Dean Elish-Piper asked if I would be involved,” McEvoy says. “I’m excited to help build our emerging leaders in the college. I don’t know that any of us would claim to be expert leaders, per se, but we are people who are trying hard to lead the units that we oversee.”
Making the transition to leadership can occur naturally but not easily, he says, further justifying the EdLEAD model.
“We often look at our strong faculty members as strong in teaching, strong in scholarship and strong in the service area, and then we thrust those strong faculty into leadership roles,” McEvoy says.
“The skills and hard work that allowed them to become effective faculty members generally do translate to helping them excel in some of these leadership activities,” he says, “but we need to equip them with leadership training and development that will enable them to excel further.”
Pitney and Walker are confident that EdLEAD will accomplish just that.
Bill Pitney, Laurie Elish-Piper and David Walker
“EdLEAD is a way to support and extend faculty leadership development, and I’m excited because it is an investment in our future,” says Pitney, associate dean of Research, Resources and Innovation.
“The program will raise awareness of critical and noteworthy issues facing higher education and its leaders locally and nationally,” he adds. “It will also explore ways to effectively lead during challenging times in higher education at multiple levels: department, college and university.”
Walker, associate dean for Academic Affairs, is eager to see college-faculty collaboration “to assist in developing future leaders in our own setting and also throughout NIU.”
“I really see this program as a unique set of opportunities to explore and develop, with the support of numerous leaders across campus, in areas such as budget, data use for decision-making, consensus building, communication or working with external constituents,” he says.
“We have a great group of six faculty participants,” he adds, “and we will all benefit from interacting and learning from each other.”
After 14 hours in the air, there was obviously no need to tell Marcus Lewis that he wasn’t in DeKalb anymore.
Yet his first steps off the plane into a nearly empty airport in China, with none of the crowded hustle and bustle of O’Hare, did the job anyway.
His important realizations would come later, however, as the third-year Elementary Education major spent six weeks from early July through mid-August teaching English to teenagers at the Beijing Royal School.
Language barriers toppled – and learning took place – in Beijing and also in Taiwan at NIU’s other partner: the Miaoli County Government Education Bureau schools.
English lessons came through an exploration of fairy tales, movies, TV shows, comic books and superheroes. Through morning exercise. Through telling stories of life in America. Through touching U.S. currency. Through synonyms and antonyms. Through celebrating the Fourth of July. Through song and dance. Through imaginations sparked with “a bunch of glue and a bunch of sticks.” Through hugs and tears.
Marcus Lewis (center) and Alexis Moaton teach in China.
“Students and kids are kids wherever you go,” says Lewis, one of 37 NIU College of Education students who participated in the summer’s maiden voyage of Educate Global, which provided round-trip airfare, room and board and cultural tours at no cost to the students or the college.
“Things can be culturally different, but people – regardless of wherever you go – are people. If they want to acquire some knowledge, they’re going to do so, and they’re going to do so in a way that’s rewarding to you as their teacher.”
Part of the college’s experiential Educate and Engage Program, Educate Global was designed exactly for outcomes like that one in China and Taiwan.
Doing so, she adds, enhanced their preparation and resiliency for rapidly changing classrooms in the United States. “We are seeing an increasing diversity in the K-12 population,” Elish-Piper says.
“Our graduates are going to encounter students who speak different languages, who come from different cultures, who have different experiences,” she adds. “They are now more aware. They will approach teaching from a more global understanding. They appreciate the diversity and differences our students bring to the classroom.”
Madison Geraghty (left)
NIU’s globetrotters, who were urged to replace judgement with curiosity, also returned with greater confidence and flexibility.
“Each student who participated has been transformed in different ways. They’ve experienced the life of being a teacher in a very unfamiliar setting,” she says. “Educate Global was an eye-opening opportunity to be in a part of the world where the culture, the language and the educational setting are so different.”
David Walker, associate dean for Academic Affairs, witnessed that with his own eyes.
“I saw our students really grow. I saw them be really self-reflective about how they need to change and develop,” Walker says, adding that “the life-altering set of experiences” enabled students to learn about themselves, what they do well and where they need to improve.
“Even now, I’ve had a number of them come up to me – in Gabel Hall, in Graham Hall, on the sidewalk – and tell me how Educate Global has changed their lives. It’s changed the trajectory of what they want to do with teaching,” he adds. “These are comments initiated by the students, which reveals to me what a powerful experience this was.”
Borg knows why the Huskie travelers feel that way.
“When we place them internationally, they become the minority. They, in many cases, find out for the first time what it’s like to actually be in a situation where they’re not in control or can’t navigate,” he says.
“For somebody to survive in that situation, and to excel and to thrive in that situation, means that that teacher-candidate is adaptable, is flexible, can make something out of nothing,” he adds. “It allows our students to become better citizens of the world. It requires our students to look at the world differently. It allows them to really reflect, and also to really reach out to students that perhaps don’t come from the same place that they come from.”
Case in point: Students in China and Taiwan “do not behave like American students,” Borg says.
“These students do not ask questions. That’s not how their educational system is set up,” he says. “Our students had to begin to ask more questions. Our students had to become far more observant in terms of the interactions that the Taiwanese or the Chinese students had.”
Quickly, however, “our students began to realize that the way they would behave around American students must be different in terms of how they would behave around Chinese and Taiwanese students, in particular in terms of how to build rapport.”
“Many times, an Educate Global student would have to break down that wall in order for that student to begin to share and to become more open,” Borg says.
“The effective educator really needs to be prepared to meet students where they’re at and move them to the next level,” he adds. “This is what NIU’s College of Education is all about. We want to be sure that our students have a whole toolkit to pull out at any moment.”
Amor Taylor, a junior Middle Level Teaching and Learning major, used fun activities to flatten language barriers.
Taylor and her co-teacher played games with students at the Beijing Royal School, who ranged in age from 11 to 15, asking them to demonstrate comprehension by completing unfinished sentences or drawing pictures of words spoken in English.
Nonetheless, “some of the students got frustrated. They were really hard on themselves. They are more disciplined, and when they do things wrong, they are really angry at themselves, and some of them would cry,” Taylor says.
“We would tell them, ‘It’s OK.’ We tried to show them that we’ve been here for five weeks, and we still don’t know as much Chinese as you know English,” she adds.
“I felt like that I was actually helping them, so it was very rewarding. I felt like we were making a difference. They were happy they were learning, and we were happy we were teaching them in a way they could learn.”
Nicole Morales (right) enjoys a meal with her Chinese students.
When Taylor returns eventually to her native Chicago to teach in “a school that’s impoverished,” she will bring the experiences of China with her.
“You have to slow down and take your time, because it’s not always that the students don’t understand. It’s that sometimes you’re going a little too fast for them to be able to let you know that they understand,” Taylor says.
“Sometimes we look only at the majority, and there a few stragglers behind. They’re still not grasping the material as quickly. We have to make sure that everybody knows it before we continue on because, when we go on to another subject, then they don’t know the first one – so they’re not going to be able to grasp that one either.”
Her confidence has risen to meet such challenges.
“There are people that we feel like might not ever ‘get it,’ and we have to strive to help those students, because it’s our job to make sure they get it. We have to figure out a way to help them so they can move on, so they can continue in life and continue in their education,” she says.
“I was able to just get a glimpse of what happens when you slow down you help them,” she adds, “helping their confidence to grow so they can feel comfortable learning the material even if they make mistakes. That made me feel good as a teacher.”
Lewis realized similar progression in his abilities.
Building affinity with Chinese students, despite “my zero knowledge of Mandarin, (their) limited knowledge of English,” he says, is good preparation for working to relate to students of different backgrounds.
“Just because something makes sense to me one way doesn’t mean it’s going to make sense to that student if I try and present that information to them that way,” Lewis says.
Meanwhile, he appreciated the challenge to plan, execute, reflect on and modify lessons. He enjoyed the teamwork with his co-teacher. He remains committed to flexibility while staying focused on his goals.
“If I can get different experiences, I’m open to those experiences. I’m open to doing things different ways if that is what’s going to foster this knowledge or inspire that student,” he adds. “I may not have as much experience now as more-seasoned teachers, but I want to collaborate. I want to work with them. I want their ideas – because I want to be a better teacher.”
Jodi Lampi, David Walker and Terry Borg
NIU is assisting him in that mission, he adds.
“People want you to succeed here,” Lewis says, “and they’re trying to provide you with as many experiences as possible so that you are successful, so that you are prepared.”
Educate Global travelers can differentiate themselves in the job market as well, partially through an incredible and affordable international opportunity that many could not manage on their own.
Students also can apply for the university’s EngagePLUS Academic Transcript Notation, which documents such skills as critical thinking, organization and teamwork to employers and graduate program.
“Our students who participated in Educate Global are highly motivated,” Elish-Piper says. “They are mature and serious. They are excited about taking a chance – of going out of their comfort zone, learning about others and, more importantly, learning about themselves.”
“The experiences they explain to principals and school districts are phenomenal,” Walker adds.
“I don’t know of many schools in our area that offer this kind of program. It’s the chance of a lifetime, and will be a hallmark of their lives.”
James Cohen, an associate professor in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction, just provided a professional reference for one of those students.
James Cohen (center)
Cohen was one of four NIU faculty who traveled to China and Taiwan to supervise and mentor the students; colleagues Jodi Lampi, John Evar Strid and Samina Hadi-Tabassum did the same.
“What I saw in our students was that they stepped up to the plate,” Cohen says.
“I saw games. I heard songs. I saw projects. I saw physical activities that got the students out of their chairs. I saw one teacher taking students outside, in the heat, to run while working on their English,” he adds. “I saw very little direct instruction. Most of it was student-centered, engaging activities.”
For someone like Cohen, who’s passionate about educational equity, those weeks in Taiwan proved that his philosophy – the College of Education’s philosophy – is getting through.
“I was very impressed with how hard they worked, and how serious they took their charge to be teachers to Taiwanese children,” he says. “They really, really, really wanted to make a difference. They wanted to be the best teachers they could be. They were open to constructive criticism. They were open to learning about the culture and the differences in lifestyles. They were open to experiencing a different world, and it was beautiful. It was very heartening.”
Educate Global, for its part, “opened their minds to the idea that not everybody is the same. It built empathy for the English Language Learners in their future classrooms,” he adds. “It will shape them for the rest of their lives, without question.”
“I couldn’t imagine doing anything else,” says Halley Fogerty, a pre-Elementary Education major from Wheaton. “I like the consistency of school. I like going to classes, taking notes, doing homework. It’s not just learning; it’s a lot of fun.”
As someone who vividly remembers rushing home from school as a young child to make PowerPoint presentations for her family, Fogerty holds dear the elementary years.
“You learn a lot about yourself. You learn to be resilient and to push through things that are hard,” she says. “I think this is the critical point in life. If you have a bad educator at an earlier age, you’re less likely to apply yourself when you’re older.”
Karli Tillema, a fellow pre-Elementary Education major, shares those sentiments.
“I’ve always wanted to teach since I was in kindergarten myself. I’ve never thought of anything else,” says the Belvidere native.
“Elementary school is a really big thing in how kids grow up and learn in the older levels – middle school and high school. It’s the start of their education,” she adds. “To know that I’m helping kids learn about things they will need to know in the future makes me happy.”
For some, the dream to teach is new.
Huntley native Samantha Panek, a percussionist, originally planned on a career in music. Thinking about her own years in middle school, however, convinced her of another path as an English teacher.
“Middle school is when kids are going through puberty and hard times. In middle school, I was still figuring myself out. I was kind of a quiet loner kid, but when I hit eighth-grade, I made friends. I had teachers who were supportive of me, and that I would talk to every day,” says Panek, a Middle Level Teaching and Learning major.
Now, Panek says, “I want to be that role model for students. I want to be one of the people they come to when they need to talk. I want to make sure they come to me when they need help.”
“I just want to give kids an opportunity to succeed and to take their learning seriously,” says Brooks, who is from Aurora.
“They have tons of opportunities and potential, and I want to open their eyes to that and give them those opportunities. I’ve seen how my cousin has been kind of limited because of that, and how people treat her because of that, and I want to change that.”
Margee Myles chats with (from left) Adina Buetow, Cameron Clark and Lauren Brooks.
Emily Wines, also a Special Education-Learning Behavior Specialist I major, discovered her calling thanks to an inclusive Physical Education program built on open minds and big hearts.
“When I was in high school, we had a combined P.E. class, and this one girl I was paired with came every day with a smile,” says Wines, from Ladd, Ill.
Her former classmate has Down syndrome and hearing issues, Wines says. “She inspired me,” says Wines, who plans to focus on severe disabilities as opposed to learning disabilities. “If she can do this every single day with a smile on her face, I want to do anything I can do to help.”
These five future teachers are among the 2017-18 class of Dean’s Achievement Scholarship recipients in the NIU College of Education.
Chosen for stellar academic performance in high school, each receives a $2,000 scholarship for the 2017-18 academic year with the possibility of renewal for the next year based on grade point average.
David Walker learns more about Adina Buetow (left).
Other scholarship recipients, from the Department of Curriculum and Instruction, are Alivia Hansen (Elementary Education-Reading), Tirza Lisle (Elementary Education), Hailey Pezdek (pre-Elementary Education), Alexis Safstrom (pre-Elementary Education) and Peytonn Weaver (pre-Elementary Education).
“You are the top new incoming freshmen,” Kristin Rinehart, coordinator of Recruitment for College of Education Student Services, told the group. “You’re at the top of the list.”
Margee Myles, director of College of Education Student Services, then raised the bar: “We truly are expecting great things from all of you.”
From Elish-Piper and the associate deans, the freshmen heard about the need to enhance their experience outside the classroom through the college’s Educate and Engage Program, the University Honors Program, undergraduate research and student organizations.
Peytonn Weaver (left) and Halley Fogerty
Beyond the networking and leadership development opportunities, Elish-Piper told the students, embracing all the college has to offer will enable them to grow as individuals as they gain more experience, more qualifications and more confidence.
“We know that you are all academic superstars,” Elish-Piper said, “and you have made a fabulous choice in NIU.”
Brooks, like the others, calls herself honored, surprised and grateful to receive a scholarship.
“I feel a lot of doors opened for me. I feel I have a better connection with the College of Education now,” she says. “I really want to try my hardest to get good grades all of my semesters here.”
Thirty-seven NIU College of Education students are traveling to teach in Asia this summer, a “business trip” guaranteed to enrich and shape their professional lives in amazing ways.
Part of the college’s experiential Educate and Engage Program, the inaugural Educate Global journey will place NIU students at China’s Beijing Royal School from early July through mid-August or Taiwan’s Miaoli County Government Education Bureau Schools in July.
Huskie travelers depart in late June to teach English as a Foreign Language in summer camp settings to Chinese and Taiwanese pupils in third- through 12th-grades.
And it’s impossible to beat the price: Educate Global covers an amazing package that includes round-trip airfare, room and board and cultural tours.
Laurie Elish-Piper, dean of the NIU College of Education, is excited to visit both sites to see Educate Global travelers in action as they “interact with their students, and embrace all of the cultural opportunities available to them in Taiwan and China.”
“I have long believed that travel is one of the best teachers about diversity, culture and one’s place in the world,” Elish-Piper said.
“Many of our teacher-candidates have not had the opportunity to travel internationally and to see education enacted in other parts of the world,” she added. “The experiences in Taiwan and China will help them understand teaching, learning and themselves as they live and teach in another part of the world.”
NIU students who participate in Educate Global will give themselves a leg up in the job market, said David Walker, associate dean for Academic Affairs.
“Our program allows students to become more educated in their disciplines, and engaged outside of the classroom in areas such as experiential learning, hands-on learning, problem-based solving, research and other areas of teaching and learning,” Walker said.
“They’ll look back at this as one of the highlights of their undergraduate or graduate careers,” he added. “I know I did; I traveled to the Soviet Union in the late ’80s, and it really helped set my course later in life. We are helping our students to teach, learn and interact in a broad space.”
Beyond the experience of teaching in a foreign culture, the Educate Global travelers will receive classroom management and instructional coaching by onsite NIU faculty members. They will work with local teaching assistants who help manage students and the language barrier. They will assist with out-of-class activities that culminate in a closing ceremony.
Elementary school campers at the Beijing Royal School will learn conversational English through exploring fairy tales, emotions and the similarities and differences between the United States and China. Teenage campers will develop their English through examining aspects of American culture, including American movies and television shows.
School-age children in Miaoli, meanwhile, will learn American culture and customs, songs and music, science and social studies with a focus on the theme of comic books and superheroes. Each child will develop and write a comic book while learning to speak, read and write in English.
“Looking at this from the big, big world perspective, the more opportunities that we take part in, where we meet and learn from people from other countries, the more we begin to recognize that we are all the same,” Borg said.
“We have families that we love. We want to learn. We want to achieve. All of these things are the same,” he added. “In an era when we’re concerned about building walls, and you’re either for us or against us, I believe this gives people cause to think that, ‘Maybe I need to be a more critical thinker than my government wants me to be.’ This might create an opportunity for more world peace and understanding.”
NIU’s students already have impressed Borg with “their commitment to be not just good but great educators.”
“Our students are concerned about teaching, and really concerned and excited about the students they’re going to teach. They’re committed to putting together very sound lesson plans based on objectives and standards,” he said. “They’re going to make NIU proud.”
Amor Taylor, a Middle Level Teaching and Leaning major in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction, wants to teach in China to “gain the knowledge necessary to view the world from different perspectives.”
“I think that I already view the world in different ways but teaching in China will add to these perspectives,” said Taylor, a native of Chicago.
Amor Taylor and Stephanie Eller
“I also want to teach in China so that I can become a better teacher for my students. The best teacher advocate for students deals with all types of situations,” she added. “Teaching in China will give me another perspective on my students and put me in an environment that allows me to learn how to deal with a variety of students. I think this opportunity as a whole is just a great way to make me a better person, student and teacher.”
Stephanie Eller, a fourth-grade ESL teacher at Emily G. Johns Intermediate School in Plano Community Unit School District 88, expects her Taiwanese campers will teach her something. She graduated in May with her M.S.Ed. in Literacy/ESL from the Department of Curriculum and Instruction.
“This will be a chance to step into a new dimension of language instruction for me, and allow me to grow my skills as a teacher working with students who do not have a common language background that we can both rely on,” Eller said. “I am excited to not only teach my language to my students in Taiwan, but also hopefully learn from them as well.”
Borg is confident that Taylor, Eller and the 35 others will return with broadened perspectives as they complete unparalleled opportunities to put theory into practice.
Some will find the courage and motivation to seek teaching jobs overseas at international school and U.S. Department of Defense schools, he said. Others will gain a greater realization of the need in Illinois for more English as a Second Language teachers as well as for teachers of English Language Learners.
All, however, will become superior teachers who “will never view their students or this career in the same way that they have before this experience,” Borg said.
“They’re going to understand now what it means when a students doesn’t understand something because they’re going to be in a place where English is not the main language, and they will translate that experience into their future students’ experience,” he said.
“Being away from their homes – flying 15 hours away, thousands of miles away – they are going to know what it means to be an environment that’s very alien to them,” he added. “And when they come back to classrooms in Illinois, they’re going to understand in a first-hand fashion about working with populations that are not indigenous here and how that feels for them.”
Elish-Piper shares Borg’s optimism – and is thrilled to see Educate Global become a reality as well as an incredible differentiator for NIU College of Education students.
“Whether our students plan to teach abroad, to teach in another part of the United States or to return to their hometown and teach,” the dean said, “Educate Global will provide them with a transformational learning experience that will forever change how they think about teaching, learning, language and culture.”
David Walker’s fervent curiosity about the world beyond the United States has shaped his life.
As an undergraduate at St. Olaf College in Minnesota, he earned a bachelor’s degree in history, political science and Russian studies. He also studied abroad in the former Soviet Union in 1987.
“I got a taste of being overseas,” Walker says, “and I enjoyed it immensely.”
Following graduation, Walker and his wife joined the Peace Corps, serving together from 1989 to 1991 in Zaire (now known as the Democratic Republic of Congo) and from 1992 to 1994 in Mauritania.
Those years in Francophone Africa sparked his interest in the history of that region, and upon his return home, he enrolled at Iowa State University to earn a master’s degree in history. He later completed a Ph.D. there in education.
Since then, as an academic with a dynamic research agenda of qualitative methodology, significant grant funding, a strong record of mentoring graduate students and a platform of promoting international collaboration as president of the Mid-Western Educational Research Association, Walker has undeniably forged an impressive career.
Now the associate dean of the NIU College of Education has external confirmation of that fact.
Walker is the 2017 recipient of Iowa State’s Virgil Lagomarcino Laureate Award, which honors graduates of the College of Human Sciences who are nationally and internationally recognized for their meritorious service or distinguished achievement in the field of education.
He will travel to Ames in October for the ceremony, which takes place during Homecoming.
The former Cyclone has dedicated himself to modeling his professors there.
“At Iowa State, I mentored under some of the best in the business,” he says, “and after I graduated, it became apparent to me how privileged I was to study under these great names in our field. I consider it my due diligence to give back to the field, and I strive to do that in my teaching and research.”
Fellow Iowa State alumna Christine Sorensen Irvine, a former dean of the NIU College of Education, nominated Walker for the award. The two also have published together.
Walker is looking forward to his trip back to Ames to collect his Lagomarcino.
“I’ll see a lot of good friends and mentors,” he says. “It’s going to be a great evening.”
Jennifer Johnson, the college’s director of teacher preparation and development, and Portia Downey, professional development coordinator, covered basics such as transportation times, liability forms, ground rules and more.
But the orientation session was mostly fun and festive.
The room was adorned with numerous Texas flags, many taped to the door and walls with others in the forms of paper plates and napkins at the buffet table, which dished up walking tacos, Downey’s homemade Texas Cowboy Cookies, Texas Sweet Tea and drinking glasses in the shape of cowboy boots.
Students also had their choice of Educate U.S. T-shirts and official College of Education red polo shirts.
David Walker, associate dean of the NIU College of Education, congratulated the group for pursuing the “phenomenal program” that sends outstanding pre-service teachers to Texas for donor-funded, all-expenses-paid experiences in a large, urban school district.
Elementary Education majors Marcus Lewis and Abby Spankroy listen during the Educate U.S. orientation.
“You made it. You’re the best of the best. We’re really excited for you to be a part of this,” said Walker, who also promoted this summer’s Educate Global program in Taiwan. “When I was a student many years ago, I wish I would have had these opportunities.”
Educate U.S. participants work side-by-side with mentor teachers, observing in classrooms, preparing lessons, and engaging in co-teaching strategies. They also participate with students, host families and community members in a variety of extracurricular and community events, further enriching their experience.
Marcus Lewis, a junior elementary education major, applied for Educate U.S. to glimpse how school is taught outside the borders of Illinois.
“I’d like to experience a different area of the United States, and see how they take on education and pedagogy,” said Lewis, who also is participating in Educate Global this summer. “I value education as a tool for change, and I believe it’s one of the most important aspects of society.”
Lewis, who’s heard “nothing but great things” about Educate U.S., hopes to teach fourth-grade. “It’s a great transition time,” he said. “They’re moving into adolescence. They’re not babies anymore. They’re starting to rationalize.”
Sarah Younglove, a special education major, expects that her week in Houston will provide a view completely unlike her “predominantly white” hometown of Oregon, Ill.
Sarah Younglove (right) and Emma Foelske
“I’m from a really small town with less than 4,000 people,” she said. “This is a great opportunity to go to a school district that’s got more than 215,000 students, and to experience different cultures.”
Younglove is equally excited for her future career. “I just feel very passionate about seeing students reach their full potential,” she said, “and I think the world needs as many passionate teachers as it can get.”
Lorena Flores, a transfer student in Middle Level Teaching and Learning, is eager to explore Houston’s bilingual classrooms.
“I’ve never seen that applied at the middle level,” she said. “I want to see how they do it.”
Flores, a veteran of the U.S. Navy who developed a love of teaching as a drill instructor, also looks forward to observing and living “the everyday life of a teacher” who must balance school and home.
Her goal as a science teacher is to emulate one of her former instructors. “In high school, I had a certain math teacher who ended up being my math teacher for three years in a row,” she said. “I hated math – but he made it fun and interesting, and he treated us as people, not just a name or a number.”
Early Childhood Studies majors traveling in May are Nycol Durham, Malika Lee, Ashley Kivikoski, Wendy Castillo-Guzman, Katelynn Horton, Ashley Hodges, Caroline Stephens and Catherina Rousonelos.
Elementary Education majors are Nicole VanGarsse, Abby Spankroy, Erin Kostos, Sarah Raila, Jennifer Lucchsi and Marcus Lewis.
Students who participate in the program will earn two master’s degrees in educational research assessment – one from NIU and one from NUTN – as well as an immersion in a foreign culture that improves their marketability.
“The program will take two years – 33 to 36 credit hours,” Hung says. “Students will either start at NIU one year and go the NUTN for the second year, or vice versa.”
Hung already knows many NIU College of Education students who are excited about the program.
“International experience is one reason why,” Hung says. “Second is the opportunity to get involved with different types of research projects, and also having the opportunity to understand the system in Taiwan. This broadens the scope in terms of education and in research assessment.”
The two universities became sister schools about five years ago. Discussions began then about a 1+1 program articulation at that time, Hung says, but an agreement never materialized.
After a new NUTN president took office last year, however, talks resumed.
Some of the newest faculty at NUTN hold degrees from U.S. universities, Elish-Piper says, and speak English: “They get us,” she says.
“We both agreed we want to do something like this. Tainan has a strong education department. Every course they offer, we offer too,” Hung says. “What makes this beneficial is that we can show that the students had been working with diverse classmates and faculty, and we can broaden the scope of our program.”
Doing so underlines the college’s value of inclusion; the NIU College of Education cultivates a diverse learning community of people, ideas and points of view in which all can learn and grow.
“This unique 1+1 double-degree initiative is curricular innovation that we are employing to enhance one of our college priorities of intentional growth,” Walker said.
Meanwhile, double-degrees are not uncommon at NIU.
Business students, for example, can enroll in the Fast-Trak MBA Program to earn master’s degrees in international management. Students spend two three-week sessions at either the Bordeaux University School of Management in France or the ENAE School of Business in Murcia, Spain.
A delegation of scholars from the NIU College of Education will travel in November to Taiwan for APERA-TERA 2016, a biannual conference of the Asia-Pacific and Taiwan educational research associations.
Walker, a former president of MWERA, called for that organization to expand its international partnerships during his 2014 speech to the annual conference. In attendance that year were academic colleagues from China and Taiwan.
“Our relationship grew,” said Walker, who also is a professor of educational research.
Meanwhile, Hung enjoys a long camaraderie with National Sun Yat-sen University.
“I asked if we could co-sponsor the conference with them,” Hung said. “It’s a great opportunity for our faculty to engage in scholarship with them – they’re one of the Top 100 universities in the world, with a great amount of innovative research – and I do see a synergy between our two universities.”
Elish-Piper will speak on “Examining the Relationship Between Instructional Coaching for Teachers and Student Reading Gains in Grades K-3 in Elementary Schools in the U.S.” while Walker will speak on “Opportunities for International Education Advancement: Developments from the United States, Asia, and Oceania.”
Top: Wei-Chen Hung and Laura Ruth Johnson. Bottom: Isti Sanga and Tom Smith.
Potential topics will include human mobility, learning hubs, joint programs, on-site extensions of universities and changes in technology, including modern methods of course delivery, such as Massive Open Online Courses.
Hung, Johnson, Sanga, Smith and Walker also will lead a conference symposium on “Diverse Research Methodologies for Diverse Settings” along with Fahad Al-Shahrani from Jubail Colleges & Institutes in Saudi Arabia.
They will address how distinct methodological approaches and strategies have been applied in research situations involving diverse populations and settings, offering their unique experiences conducting research in varied cultural contexts.
“Understanding that NIU is looking for different types of partnerships, I think that having faculty integrated in this type of collaboration might be able to bring this partnership further. We could engage in student research, professional development or faculty exchanges.” Hung said.
“That places NIU on a more international platform, and also could help us in terms of recruitment and retention,” he added. “Allowing researchers and educators from different regions to know about NIU, to know about our programs and to know about the research we’re doing broadens our presence in a global context.”
“ETRA has many international students, and we’re continuing that relationship when they go home,” he said.
“For MWERA,” he added, “it’s good to grow the organization and bring diversity to it through an international experience, such as study abroad, scholar exchanges, grants and research in international affairs, and it’s also good for the graduate students we’re mentoring.”