Tag: special education

Elementary Education enhances curriculum with new emphases

Anne Gregory

Anne Gregory

Elementary Education majors at NIU will enter the teaching field a step ahead of their peers.

Three new emphases – Bilingual/ESL, Reading Teacher and Special Education – will provide automatic endorsements in areas that previously required additional coursework.

For example, the Reading Teacher endorsement, designed for teachers who teach reading in a setting other than a self-contained classroom, currently entails 24 semester hours of credit in stand-alone courses.

Now, says Anne Gregory, chair of the Department of Literacy and Elementary Education, faculty will “purposefully incorporate” those lessons into existing courses.

With the innovation, students can complete their degrees and endorsements within four years, saving time and money while becoming more marketable: They’ll graduate with a “broad view” of what teachers can provide to young learners.

“It will make them look very different than anyone else in the state,” Gregory says. “There aren’t any other programs in Illinois that look like this. There are five-year programs elsewhere, but none that include this many options for candidates. And, no one else has done a four-year program. We will be a leader.”

Students also can pursue multiple endorsements, although that would extend their time in school.



Presidential Teaching Professor Toni Van Laarhoven imparts lessons from her life, heart

Toni Van Laarhoven

Toni Van Laarhoven

Toni Van Laarhoven became a teacher before she became a student.

Van Laarhoven and her twin sister, Traci, often accompanied their mother and their sister, Steffanie, to the parent-run school their sibling attended. Toni and Traci – only preschoolers then – often were asked to teach their sister’s classmates and to lead small-group activities.

Years later, Van Laarhoven would realize the roles were switched.

“My older sister, who has severe intellectual disabilities, is nonverbal and engages in some challenging behavior, is one of the coolest people you could ever meet – and is also one of my most influential teachers,” says NIU’s Presidential Teaching Professor for 2016.

“She has taught me that teaching-and-learning is a reciprocal process,” she adds, “and that it is critical to listen and learn from all people, regardless of their mode of communication.”

Her mother also inspired her work but in a different way.

Elaine Leslie Baker joined other parents in lobbying for educational opportunities for individuals with disabilities; their efforts resulted in the 1975 legislation known as the Education for All Handicapped Children Act that guarantees a free, appropriate education for that population.



Singing NIU’s praises overseas

College of Ed alumna values, imparts NIU lessons

Lalitha Gowdanahalli Ramappa visits Altgeld Hall in August.

NIU alumna Lalitha Gowdanahalli Ramappa visits
Altgeld Hall in August.

Lalitha Gowdanahalli Ramappa was teaching children with special needs through a spiritual organization in her native India when she came to an important realization.

“I didn’t have enough knowledge to teach them,” Lalitha says. “I wanted to learn more skills and how to be an effective teacher so I could really teach them better.”

That mission brought her to the United States – sponsored by her uncle – to enroll at the College of DuPage and, eventually, at NIU. She graduated from the NIU College of Education in December of 1993 with a master’s degree in special education.

Returning to India, Lalitha began volunteering at a school called Vivekananda Kendra, located in a rural area.

While there, she began applying her NIU training and evangelizing for the College of Education.

“I thank NIU for giving me such a nice education. I applied all of those skills in my school. I learned how to give them feedback, how to assist their skills and their intelligence, how to motivate them to learn,” she says.



Meet a COE Northern Lights Ambassador: Bernadette Chatman

Bernadette 2

Bernadette Chatman

“I have two ultimate goals in life: the first, to stay content and the second, to inspire someone to be a better them,” says Bernadette Chatman. “Both of these goals lead me to want to be an educator, more specifically an educator for those who are differently abled.”

Bernadette is a senior in special education as well as one of four COE Northern Lights Ambassadors.

As a Northern Light Ambassador, Bernadette says she wants to serve as a voice for the students. She believes students should be aware of all of the great opportunities that Northern, as well as the College of Education, has to offer.

“Our college has provided me with a few opportunities that I never saw myself doing. Teaching in Houston for a week is an example. The program, Educate U.S., gave me and 19 other NIU students the opportunity to teach in the Aldine School district. Unlike other institutions that send their students to the same program, NIU paid for our flight, ensured we were satisfied with our placements as well as the environment in which we lived in, and even took us out to explore Houston. I left Texas with a job offer and a greater appreciation for my college.”



Marian Cheatham – COE Alumni Story

embedMarian Cheatham (B.S. Ed. ’77) might not exist today were it not for an ancestor’s premonition — and avoidance — of the very disaster that launched Cheatham’s career.

Cheatham is a full-time writer of contemporary and historical young adult fiction. Her debut young adult novel, “Eastland,” is based on the real story of the 1915 Eastland boating disaster that claimed the lives of 844 people in Chicago.  As a child, Cheatham learned that her grandmother was somehow linked to the deadly shipwreck, but it wasn’t until she had started her writing career that she learned her grandmother was supposed to be on the ship that day. She had given up her ticket at the urging of her mother, however, who had an ominous feeling about the trip.

Cheatham now lectures about the Eastland disaster to schools, libraries and book clubs, and writes a post on the subject on the Chicago Tribune’s “Chicago Now” blog site. The ill-fated ship’s story became especially prominent this year when a recent NIU graduate discovered chilling original newsreels of the disaster, just in time for its 100th anniversary this summer.

Born and raised in the Chicago area, Cheatham attended NIU, where she pursued a degree in special education.