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.
Like many, I find myself in awe of the #NeverAgain students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
Their resiliency and courage in the face of tragedy, coupled with their willingness to speak up, have affirmed my confidence in the future. These amazing young people are informed, intelligent and eloquent, and they are trying to make a positive change in this country.
Images and video of the March for Our Lives, which drew those students and countless thousands of young people to the streets of Washington, D.C., and their hometowns from coast to coast March 24, brilliantly illustrated the depth of their resolve and the urgency of their call to action.
Of course, their voices also serve to remind me of the importance of one our main roles here: preparing teachers at all levels along with principals, counselors, superintendents and others who work in and around schools.
Caring, talented and responsive educators are profoundly critical in helping schools rise above and prosper in these challenging times.
Even if we in higher education feel sad, or worried for the future of our schools, we cannot ignore what’s happening as we prepare our students for the reality of today’s schools. That’s why we’re working with the Office of Educator Licensure and Preparation to incorporate safety training protocols into our programs now.
While these are challenging times, our students who plan to become teachers are passionate about teaching.
They are passionate about wanting to make a positive difference in the lives of their students, their families and their communities. They understand the enormous demands of teaching today, but they are eager to get started making the world a better place through education.
Our job, therefore, is to ensure that our curriculum is current and relevant; that we provide the support our students need to succeed; and that we are strategic and efficient as we face significant financial challenges.
As you might have read in January, NIU anticipates a gap of up to 8 percent between projected revenues and expenses.
I have worked closely with the College of Education Senate to build a college budget that focuses mainly on generating revenue but also reduces spending in ways that we believe will have limited impact on students, faculty and staff.
Our goal when creating the budget has been to remain academically responsive and fiscally responsible. We believe that we have proposed ways to steady the ship, and we expect that senior leaders in Altgeld Hall will provide us with a budget update in the very near future.
For our part, we are ahead of the curve. We continue to make progress on our Strategic Action Planning Framework as department chairs work with me to review their action plans and the Senate identifies the metrics to measure our work.
Meanwhile, we are collaborating with our colleagues in the Division of Enrollment Management, Marketing and Communications to promote our programs; this includes online advertising campaigns for three of our online graduate programs as well as the BSAM-ITTE. We’ve also embarked on a website update that features a more dynamic homepage along with more customized navigation within our departmental websites.
Our rich partnership with EMMC also brought a busload of high school students from Future Teachers Clubs in Elgin Area School District U-46 to campus March 22. They and their teachers were so impressed with our academic programs, our engaged learning opportunities and the friendly and welcoming climate on our campus.
While not on a bus, Judy Schneider, our director of Advancement, and I have been traveling to share our mission with alumni and donors.
We recently visited Florida to renew and build strong relationships and to talk about the amazing things going on here.
Judy just visited alumni in Arizona, she and I had a wonderful lunch meeting with alumni in Lake Forest and we hosted an event for nearly 20 alumni in Palm Desert, California, last weekend. There are so many great stories to share about the inspirational work and accomplishments of our students, faculty and staff.
We also are hoping to energize our retired faculty – and ourselves – Tuesday, April 10, through an event prior to the Community Learning Series. We have personally invited our retired faculty to join us that afternoon to socialize and to learn about what we’re doing in the college before we adjourn to enjoy the panel discussion.
I hope to see many of you there for a night that I’m sure will inspire our work as the semester races to a close in just a few short weeks.
You might also remember that “inspire” is my “one word” for 2018, and I’m enjoying my progress in that goal. I’m inspired daily by the amazing work you are doing to teach, mentor and serve our students; to conduct and disseminate important research; and to provide service to the college, university, community and professional associations. I’d love to know how your “one words” are shaping your lives this year, so please stop me in the hall, send me a message or stop by the office to share your stories.
I am deeply grateful for all you do to make the College of Education such a wonderful place to teach, learn, work and serve.
Laurie Elish-Piper has put the support and expertise of the NIU College of Education behind a new alliance calling on leaders to address the state’s urgent need to increase the number of teachers and to elevate the teaching profession in 2018 and beyond.
Higher education must “help young people and career-changers see that being a teacher is a noble, rewarding and exciting profession,” says Elish-Piper, dean of the College of Education.
What that requires is “mentoring and induction support to help new teachers be successful,” she adds, along with professional development for educators across their careers to keep them in the profession.
“Entry into the teaching profession needs to be more accessible so motivated, qualified individuals can become teachers. Additionally, we need to diversify the teaching profession so it more accurately reflects the PK-12 student population,” Elish-Piper says. “There is so much we need to do, which is why I’m thrilled to be part of this statewide coalition that represents multiple sectors, all working together to benefit education in the state of Illinois.”
The coalition has a vision that all students, especially those who need the most, have access to the teachers they need to prepare them for college and career.
Over the last decade, the supply of future Illinois teachers has tightened. This shortage varies by region and subject area and is most acute outside of the Chicagoland area in rural and suburban districts. The subjects where this shortage is most severe include special education, bilingual, high school STEM teachers, and career and technical education.
All students are impacted: Schools are forced to hire substitute teachers in lieu of fulltime teachers, cancel classes and convert classes to online instruction.
The Teachers for Illinois’ Future coalition is a collaborative effort to:
Ensure students have the teachers they need in order to learn.
Support teachers’ growth from exploration of profession and throughout their career.
Increase the respect for and the desirability of the teaching profession.
Provide school and program leaders with systemic flexibility to meet their students’ needs.
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 is tied for fifth with the University of Houston and Utah State University this year, bringing the Top 5 streak to six consecutive years. The College of Education also made the “honor roll” in 2012, the first year that U.S. News began collecting data on online graduate education programs.
Dean Laurie Elish-Piper is proud, but not surprised, that NIU tops all other Illinois and Mid-American Conference colleagues.
“Being ranked in the Top 5 for the last six years really affirms the quality and consistency of our NIU College of Education online graduate programs,” Elish-Piper says.
“One aspect of the ranking that I’m most proud of is the ranking for faculty qualifications,” the dean adds. “Our faculty and staff are on the cutting edge of online learning, and it’s exciting to see their great work being consistently honored.”
Indeed, NIU scored 94 out of 100 in the Faculty Credentials and Training category. The college also earned high marks for Student Engagement (89 out of 100) and in Student Services and Technology (79 out of 100).
Meanwhile, the college earned a Peer Assessment score of 3 on a scale of 1 to 5.
ETRA Chair Wei-Chen Hung, who is quick to credit faculty members for their continued dedication to excellence in online education, reports that his department has achieved a desirable milestone.
“Some of our students say they feel no difference between face-to-face and online because they feel that the dynamics of the interaction is always there between students and faculty,” Hung says.
“Our students receive the best instruction and learning opportunities in online environments, and most students are not surprised by that. They say, ‘Of course!’ That’s the first reaction they have,” he adds. “I believe this is due to the faculty’s high qualifications to teach these courses online and their incorporation of innovative teaching methods.”
Faculty in ETRA strive to retain the U.S. News ranking by participating in professional development to stay up to date on their skills, he says.
Naturally, he adds, the professors and instructors also care deeply about fostering student success and doing what is needed to ensure that.
“Last year, we were very purposeful to initiate a quality measures training,” Hung says. “As a result, every faculty member who teaches online was also certified to teach and to design and develop online courses. Some even went on to become certified reviewers of online courses to support other faculty members who want to develop online courses.”
Carolyn Pluim (Vander Schee)
Carolyn Pluim, chair of LEPF, calls the latest ranking “a clear reflection of the expertise that we have teaching in the program area.”
“We have a really nice blend of faculty members and instructors who’ve had years of experience in the field,” Pluim says, “and there is a strong commitment to making the online program very applicable to the needs of working students. Our flexible online program enables students who would otherwise not be able to take two years out their professional lives to participate.”
Between 20 and 25 new students begin the program every other semester, she says, with at least three cohorts progressing through the curriculum simultaneously.
“I have yet to see an end of people who want this degree, to be honest,” Pluim says.
“We adhere to routine course updates to remain relevant and to reflect current best practices that are very applicable to that the students are going to be facing in the field,” she adds. “We’ve also got people in the program who are often grappling with the same kinds of questions that our courses are asking them to problem-solve around. The blend of theoretical knowledge and practical applications makes for a richer classroom dialogue.”
Other Illinois schools ranked include the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (25), the University of St. Francis (36), Concordia (88), McKendree University (107) Roosevelt University (125) and the University of Illinois at Springfield (131).
Mid-American Conference schools in the rankings include Buffalo (15), Ohio (18), Ball State (36), Central Michigan (46), Bowling Green (88), Kent State (107), Toledo (107), Eastern Michigan (148) and Western Michigan (150).
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.”
Yet despite our natural inclination at this time to look back at where we’ve been, I choose to look ahead – to a new year brimming with opportunity, a blank slate ready for stories.
January will bring Yanghee Kim, our new LD and Ruth G. Morgridge Endowed Chair in Teacher Education and Preparation.
I’m excited for Yanghee’s arrival, and if you were fortunate enough to meet her in August, I know you are as well. She will bring her fascinating research into the incredible possibilities of instructional technology, and she is eager for your ideas and collaboration.
The New Year will also see an expansion of our Educate and Engage Program, the rollout of our new EdLEAD professional development initiative and, I’m sure, more innovation from all of you in teaching, learning, research and impactful connections with our school and community partners.
As you enjoy winter break, and the time with loved ones and new memories it provides, I’m guessing that you – like me – also will spend a few moments contemplating your personal resolutions for 2018.
This year, I’m also committed to reflecting on my professional goals, and I encourage you to join me.
How will you grow? What will you accomplish? Whose lives will you improve? How will you make a difference? Where will you transport yourself, your students and our college?
Please accept my wishes for a joyful, restful and rejuvenating break. I’ll see you in 2018!
Dean, Distinguished Teaching Professor and Presidential Engagement Professor
NIU College of Education
As Fadil Sulejmani greeted students and faculty of the new University of Tetova, he uttered words likely never spoken before – or since – to mark the inauguration of a school.
“We want pens and notebooks,” Sulejmani told the crowd, “not violence.”
Despite his pleas and his hopes, terrible unrest awaited the trailblazers of ethnic Albanian higher education in Macedonia, even on that day in 1995.
Local police decked out in riot gear tried to force their way into the classrooms. They did not succeed. Members of the local community courageously turned out en masse to form a human blockade.
Yet the government would continue to harass and intimidate Tetova for several years.
Sulejmani himself, a professor of Albanian at the University of Prishtina for 23 years before he helped to found Tetova with other Albanian intellectuals, eventually was arrested and sentenced to 30 months in prison, although he was released after one year.
His only crime? Daring to provide higher education to ethnic Albanians.
“Ethnic Albanians are a minority, more or less marginalized with limited access to higher education,” says Roberts, who also serves as faculty director of the College of Education’s Blackwell History of Education Museum. “Their story is a very powerful lesson of how higher education should never be taken for granted.”
Fortunately, cameras caught it all.
Nearly 70 reproductions of photographs that depict the university’s tumultuous existence are coming to the Blackwell for a five-month exhibition
All faculty and staff are encouraged to attend the opening of “The University of Tetova and the Struggle for Educational Equity in the Republic of Macedonia” if their schedules allow.
Museum visitors also can read first-person narratives written by four people who were involved in the founding or the early years of Tetova.
Roberts began thinking last December about bringing the images to DeKalb as he and others from NIU visited Tetova for an international conference at the Center for Peace and Transcultural Communication, a joint venture between the two universities.
“The NIU folks who were there were taken to the University of Tetova’s museum, in the small building where the first classes were held,” he says. “In this small museum were many, many photographs taken over the years that told the story of the university’s founding and its status, in many respects, as an illegal university. It was not recognized by the government.”
Steve Builta, director of Technology Innovation and Learning Services for the College of Education, quickly bought into Roberts’ vision. Builta compares Tetova’s battle for educational rights to the U.S. struggles to desegregate its K-12 schools decades ago.
“It’s very compelling. It’s a fantastic story to tell about a place in the world that not many of our students know much about, and people will be fascinated,” Builta says. “It will be interesting for people to think about the fact that we don’t have to fight for our university education in the way they did.”
Before beginning the curation process, she knew nothing about the University of Tetova and only a little about Macedonia.
“I remember the war, and the refugees, but I was too young to understand the nuances,” Wilson-Loring says. “This exhibition has really made me examine what was going on, and it’s a familiar story: the fight for education. I believe that education is a human right, and being able to tell this story for them – and to show their fight – is really empowering to me.”
An “anthropologist by nature,” she hopes that visitors to the exhibition adopt an international view of education, considering that what happens globally impact the United States, and then question themselves and others about finding the best paths to progress.
“Education shouldn’t be a stagnant thing, and we have been keeping it that way for too long,” she says. “I hope people understand why the ethnic Albanians were fighting for this – a university, teaching in the Albanian language, teaching Albanian history – and fighting for the survival of their culture.”
Students should take personal inspiration from the photographs, Roberts adds.
“This is a really relatable story, with lessons of how a group of committed students, with the help of their community and their professors, can really fight for this right to a quality life and education,” Roberts says.
“We hope to energize our own students to think of themselves as activists,” he adds, “and the roles they can play to be advocates or leaders in any social movement they feel impassioned about.”
Guided tours for faculty and students are planned for the spring semester, Wilson-Loring says. The exhibition closes May 11.
The Blackwell is located in the Learning Center on the lower level of Gabel Hall. For more information, call (815) 753-1236 or email email@example.com.
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.”
When Mary Bell came to NIU in 1957, she was told to spend 75 percent of her time teaching Physical Education and the rest leading intramurals and intercollegiate sports for women.
“Pretty soon, they took intramurals off,” Bell says. “I was excited about that. The intercollegiate role was what I was really interested in.”
Considered “the founding mother” of NIU women’s athletics, Bell soon accepted an offer to escort some female Huskie students to Illinois State University to play basketball against two other schools.
The schedule was standard for such “Sports Day” events then – one game in the morning, one game in the afternoon and lunch with the other teams and coaches in between.
Game rules in that era prohibited snatching the ball from another player’s hands, more than three dribbles and crossing the center-court line; women were expected, Bell says, to preserve their bodies for childbirth.
It all might seem archaic now, but coming 15 years before federal Title IX legislation, it was a good start.
“Back then, we didn’t have practices. We didn’t have uniforms. You just waited until another school invited you,” Bell says. “But I told the girls, ‘If you go with me, you have to practice at least once.’ ”
Awarded to the top women’s athletic program in the Mid-American Conference, the Jacoby came this year to the Huskies for the first time in program history. NIU, which competes in 10 women’s sports, saw nine of those programs finish in the top half of the MAC during either regular season or tournament play.
NIU Athletic Director Sean Frazier and Chief of Staff Debra Boughton brought the trophy to Anderson Hall for the latest stop of its victory “tour.”
Visiting the College of Education with the Jacoby “just makes sense,” says Frazier, who holds two graduate degrees in education-related disciplines and is co-teaching a KNPE course this semester.
The NIU College of Education prepares and graduates leaders in the field – many Huskie student-athletes among them – who go on to create and maintain vital academic experiences, he adds.
“For us, it’s just a natural fit. It just works,” Frazier says. “It gives me a great sense of pride that Athletics is contributing to the college’s mission.”
Laurie Elish-Piper, dean of the NIU College of Education, is equally as grateful for the association.
“We’re very proud of our women student-athletes,” Elish-Piper says, “and this ceremony is a wonderful way to honor their hard work while acknowledging our longstanding relationship with Intercollegiate Athletics.”
Boughton, who is also NIU’s senior associate athletics director for Finance and Operations and senior woman administrator, told the room full of coaches, faculty and annuitants that she had carefully tracked the university’s progress toward the Jacoby win.
Chad McEvoy and Debra Boughton
Near the end of the school year, with final results from softball and women’s track and field still pending, victory was in view – and a friendly trip to pump up the coaches was in order.
“I said, ‘We’re super, super close here. I need you not to screw this up,’ ” Boughton told the audience with a laugh, adding that NIU “is a great place to be right now, and we’re moving in the right direction.”
She also served in a number of leadership roles in the growth of women’s collegiate athletics, including as president of the National Association for Girls and Women in Sports and as Ethics and Eligibility chair on the Association of Intercollege Athletics for Women.
“When I was here, women’s sports were very limited,” Moyer says. “It’s wonderful to see how the opportunities for young women, not only in high school and college but also in the pros, allow them to test their limits. I never had that opportunity. I would much rather have been outside playing sports and having a good time than sitting inside.”
Moyer and Bell, who also coached field hockey, basketball, badminton, volleyball, swimming, and softball at NIU between 1957 and 1976, appreciate the modern landscape better than many.
Paige Dacanay was a member of the 2016 NIU women’s volleyball team.
Before Title IX became law, Moyer says, “the two of us were fighting” for equality in sports.
They received an updated look at the law – Title IX is celebrating its 45th anniversary this year – just before the Sept. 27 ceremony by attending the LESM 341: Administration of Intercollegiate Athletics class co-taught by Frazier and Chad McEvoy, chair of the Department of Kinesiology and Physical Education.
Guest lecturer Boughton described Title IX’s complicated parameters to remain in compliance, a task measured in accommodations of interests and abilities; athletic financial aid; and “other athletic benefits and opportunities” that include equipment, supplies, locker rooms, schedules and more.
“What I appreciate the most, which comes after many decades, is that women have an opportunity to practice, to learn and to get to be good,” says Bell, for whom the NIU softball field is named. “It’s not just to play around. It’s about improving your skills.”
Other alums, annuitants and special guests joining the class and the Jacoby Trophy presentation were Dee Abrahamson, Linda Conrad, Ruth Heal, Tony and Carolyn Kambich, Donna Martin. Judy Sisler, Sally Stevens and Nadine Zimmerman.